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Elections officials to decide next week on special election date

Georgia State Senate
Clarke County Board of Elections Chair Rocky Raffle, shown here testifying before state lawmakers earlier this year, says that a November special election could create major problems for the county's election department.

The Clarke County Board of Elections is set to decide next week on when to hold a special election to fill the vacant District 2 seat on the ACC Commission. That vacancy occurred when District 2 Commissioner Mariah Parker resigned recently. The board will make a final decision on Wednesday, September 21.

While it is possible for the special election to be held along with the scheduled general election on November 8, elections officials say that doing that could create a logistical nightmare.

Among the complications is the fact that the election would have to be held separately, even if it were on November 8.

"That means separate machines, separate staff, lots more money - you have to pay these people to work," said Rocky Raffle, Chair of the Clarke County Board of Elections.

Raffle says that because all the county’s voting machines would be in use for the general election, the county would have to borrow machines from other counties to accommodate a potential special election on November 8.

Another complication is figuring out exactly which District 2 voters would be able to vote in the special election. The county’s commission districts were radically redrawn earlier this year, and the new District 2 contains an almost completely different group of voters than the old District 2 that Parker represented.

Elections board members heard a litany of comments from members of the public urging them to hold the election in the old district. But, according to Raffle, that could lead to errors.

"All the old districts have been essentially purged from our systems in preparation for this past May's election and the future," Raffle said.

According to Raffle, elections staffers would have to rebuild the voter list in the old District 2 essentially by hand, which could lead to mistakes in who is or isn’t eligible to vote.

ACC Mayor Kelly Girtz has called on elections officials to instead hold the special election in March, saying that a later election date would provide “absolute legal clarity” around who would be eligible to vote. Girtz also said that a March election would give candidates more time to conduct their campaigns.

Martin Matheny is WUGA's Program Director and a host and producer of our local news program 'Athens News Matters.' He started at WUGA in 2012 as a part-time classical music host and still hosts WUGA's longest-running local program 'Night Music' which is heard on WUGA and GPB Classical. He lives in Normaltown with his wife, Shaye and dog, Murphy.
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