Macon-Bibb residents announce lawsuit seeking special election
MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – Macon-Bibb residents are seeking legal action after the Bibb County Board of Elections declined to hold a special election in May to fill the empty District 1 commissioners seat.
Daryl Morton, Lester Miller, and Jerry Lumley held a news conference at Monday morning to announce their legal action.
“This isn’t just about the voters of District one. Every voter has the right to be represented,” said Morton. “We’re simply trying to make sure that voters have the right to be represented in accordance with the law at a critical time in our community.”
Morton filed a lawsuit against the county after the board of elections declined to hold a special election in May. That election would find someone to fill the district one commission seat, the one Gary Bechtel vacated in March.
“I didn’t resign,” said Bechtel. “I was forced by my choice to run for the House District 141 to vacate the seat by the Georgia constitution.”
Bechtel says he didn’t expect his leaving would cause such chaos.
“I thought they would handle it forthright and that they would set the election based on the time necessary to get qualifying done, get the ballots prepare and get the precincts,” said Bechtel.
After revisiting the issue a second time, the county commission voted to allocate about $20,000 to fund the election, but it ultimately wasn’t up to them.
“My understanding is that we really can’t tell them what to do. We appropriate the money and they make the decision,” said Commissioner Larry Schlesinger.
Some Board of elections board members declined to comment, but chairman Rinda Wilson, who is out of town, says it was a really hard call due to the timing. Although she was the only one on her board to vote in favor of holding the special election in May, she says there was reason in the board deciding against it. Money was an issue brought up, as well as the complications two separate voting lines would bring, and not giving qualifying candidates enough time to campaign.
“It’s not just about having qualified candidates, it’s about complying with the law,” said Morton. “Because the law recognizes that having a vacancy in a governing body like this needs to be addressed quickly.”
Wilson also said the Board of Elections could have another special called to take back their decision, but it has not been discussed if that will happen.
The Mayor’s office also declined to comment since Mayor Reichert had not yet read the lawsuit.
You can read the full lawsuit here.
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