The Union Recorder

Local News

July 18, 2013

Commission: Election changes far off

MILLEDGEVILLE — In an early July Baldwin County Commissioners meeting, the board asked county attorney David McRee to research the possibility of non-partisan elections, staggered terms and electing a countywide chair.

The findings showed a long way to go if the county desires further implementation.

When McRee spoke to other legal associates in tune with the state lawmakers, they described ‘no appetite in Atlanta’ for non-partisan elections.

“There is no Georgia law on the books that allows for non-partisan elections of county commissioners. It would require the legislature to pass a general law applying to all 159 counties. Once that passed, the individual counties could introduce local legislation to have their counties set up on a non-partisan basis,” the county attorney said Tuesday.

The only exception is allowed under consolidated local governments.

Commission Chair Sammy Hall, District 3, said the political parties don’t want to do non-partisan because they lose their portion of the qualifying fee paid by all aspiring elected officials.

Commissioner Tommy French, District 2, wants no part of elections he sees leaning toward the more wealthy and Republican candidates.

“It’s a way of diluting the minority vote. All these things coming forward are doing this, point blank. Being a minority candidate, I have to look out for my county and district to the whole picture,” French said about all three ideas.

While non-partisan requires a legislative mountain moved, the other options seem more doable.

Presently, five elected commissioners serve four-year terms. Staggered terms would switch certain districts to two years eliminating a complete turnover during each election.

McRee said the county must pass a resolution to send to Atlanta asking the legislative delegation to introduce local legislation for staggered commission terms.

The county’s attorney suggested waiting until the current four-year terms end.

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