Early voting for Senate election starts Dec. 26

Published 1:49 pm Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Bainbridge council will hold election to fill Burke’s seat

Early voting for the Jan. 8 special election to fill the vacant State Senate District 11 seat will begin on Dec. 26, and continue through Jan. 4.

Six people qualified to run in the special election, which will determine who will represent the district after incumbent John Bulloch resigned on Friday, Dec. 7.

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Lisa Collins of Blakely, Ga., who had qualified as a candidate last week, has withdrawn from the race, according to Decatur County Chief of Elections Doris White. Collins’ name won’t be listed as a choice on electronic voting machines; however, her name may still be printed on paper ballots that are only used in special situations.

For the special election, anyone who wishes to vote using a paper absentee ballot must contact their county’s election office to request to have one mailed, White said. The Decatur County Board of Elections and Voter Registration office can be contacted at (229) 243-2087.

Early voting will be conducted in Decatur County at the Fairgrounds off Vada Road.

Between Dec. 26 through Dec. 28, registered voters may cast ballots in person between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. On Dec. 31, as well as Jan. 2 through Jan. 4, early voting will be held between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.

No voting will be conducted on New Year’s Day, and there will be no early voting after Jan. 4.

Because it is a special election, all six candidates will be listed together on the ballot. Their names will be listed alphabetically, with their party listed beneath their name. Voters will be able to select from any of the seven candidates, regardless of political party preference.

The six candidates, in alphabetical order, are as follows: Marshall Berman, Republican from Thomasville; Dean Burke, Republican from Bainbridge; Brad Hughes, Republican from Blakely, Ga.; Mike Keown, Republican from Coolidge, Ga.; Eugene McNease, Republican from Thomasville, Ga.; and Jeffrey G. Bivins, Libertarian from Cairo, Ga.


Special election costs

When Burke qualified to run for the State Senate seat, his Bainbridge City Council seat was automatically vacated, due to state law related to who is eligible to run for state office, White said.

The City of Bainbridge’s charter states, “In the event that the office of mayor or councilmember shall become vacant … the city council or those remaining shall order a special election to fill the balance of the unexpired term of such official.”

Burke — who held Council District B, Post 6 — had just been re-elected in 2011, so the balance of his term will last until Dec. 31, 2015.

However, it’s not yet clear when the Bainbridge City Council will order an election to be held to fill Burke’s vacated seat, City Manager Chris Hobby said Tuesday.

Hobby said that some council members would prefer to wait until the November general election, when two other council seats will also be on the ballot.

Waiting until November would save the city from having to pay approximately $12,000 to hold a citywide special election, Hobby said. Since there will already be a statewide general election being held, the city’s cost would be minimal.

While Burke’s council seat would remain vacant until the special election is held, Hobby said he was not aware of any issues that would arise from his absence.

However, the City Council could also choose to hold a special election on a predetermined date set by the Georgia Secretary of State’s office. For 2013, dates on which special elections may be held are March 19, June 18, Sept. 17 or in conjunction with the general election on Nov. 5.

Hobby said City Attorney Tom Conger is researching whether state law dictates how soon a local governing body must hold a special election after a vacancy arises.

The Decatur County Board of Commissioners has language in its charter that allows it to appoint someone to fill a vacant seat under certain conditions; however, those rules were approved by the Georgia legislature in 2006, White said.

White said the Board of Elections and Voter Registration, as well as its staff and poll workers, have become busy preparing for the Jan. 8 special election. While White expects that voter turnout will be significantly lower for the special election, when compared with a general election, the county will still have to pay for all nine polling places to be open on Jan. 8.

The cost to hold a special election throughout all nine county precincts is approximately $15,000 to $20,000, White said. It costs about $3,500 just to hold seven days of early voting at one location, after five poll workers are paid.

The county will save some money this time around because local elections officials will perform the logic and accuracy testing for the voting machines themselves, saving about $5,000.

“We’re trained to be able to do it ourselves — we just generally like to have the company that made the machines do it for larger elections,” she said.