Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Selection of University System Chancellor Could Produce Summer of Elections in Oconee County

Four Or Six Possible

The expected May 6 appointment of Hank Huckaby as the chancellor of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia could set off a series of events that would result in a summer of elections for Oconee County voters.

Huckaby, who lives in Oconee County and represents the county and parts of Clarke, Morgan and Oglethorpe counties in the Georgia House of Representatives, will have to resign the legislative post when he becomes chancellor. He is the sole finalist for the position.

Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin Davis is discussing openly the possibility that he will run to replace Huckaby as representative of the 113th House District.

Davis at BOC, 4/26/2011

If Davis were to qualify for that office, he would have to resign his position as chairman.

Chuck Horton, currently Post 4 commissioner, announced earlier this year that he plans to run for the BOC chairman in 2012.

If Horton follows up on that announcement and decides to run in a special election to replace Davis, he will have to resign as Post 4 commissioner once he qualifies, requiring another election to fill that slot.

Horton at BOC, 4/26/2011

As a result of this game of musical chairs, it is possible the county could have three special elections in coming months. But a candidate must get a majority of the votes cast in a special election or the top two candidates face off in a run-off election.

In such a case, between now and Nov. 8, Oconee County voters could be asked to go the polls six times.

The Board of Education has decided to hold an election on Nov. 8 so voters can decide whether to continue the 1-cent-on-a-dollar Education Local Option Sales Tax.

Pat Hayes, director of elections for Oconee County, told me today she has not received a formal request for an election from the BOE, but she said she is expecting one shortly.

County Attorney Daniel Haygood told me last night that he thinks it may be possible to merge the election for BOC chairman and for Post 4 commissioner, should these posts come open, cutting down on the number of elections.

But nothing will happen until Gov. Nathan Deal issues a writ of election, which would in the calling of a special election for Huckaby’s seat.

Hayes said that on the state’s election calendar the dates of June 21 and Sept. 20 are set aside for special elections.

If the governor calls a special election to fill the 113th House seat, however, the election does not need to fall on these dates. Such elections are non-partisan. Each candidate’s party affiliation, if any, is listed on the ballot.

The General Assembly is expected to begin a special session on Aug. 15 to discuss redistricting. Oconee County could suffer without representation in the Assembly.

If Davis decides not to run for the 113th House District seat, only the election for the House seat would be required this summer.

Hayes said she has not budgeted for any special elections, which, she said, cost an estimated $8,000 to $10,000 to run.

Haygood told me last night that he has talked with Davis about the election scenario. Davis doesn’t need to make a final decision about his interest in the House seat until the qualifying deadline, which cannot be set until the election itself is called.

The enabling legislation for Oconee County passed by the General Assembly in 1917 specifies only that when vacancies occur on the Board of Commissioners a special election shall be held to fill the vacancies. None of the subsequent changes in the enabling legislation provide additional detail on how the election would be held.

Sarah Bell, active in local politics, also has indicated she plans to run again for BOC chairmanship in 2012. She lost to Davis by only 100 votes in 2008, when Davis was elected to his third, four-year term. That term would end in 2012.

The BOC chairmanship and all commissioners are elected county-wide.

Yet one more wild card is in the deck.

If the governor signs the bill before him allowing alcohol package sales on Sunday, which he is expected to do, the BOC could vote to put that issue on the ballot at any of the required special elections or in November.

It seems unlikely a three-member BOC without Davis and Horton would be inclined to do that, but it is possible.

1 comment:

Xardox said...

Sunday package sales as an ancillary item on the ballot would guarantee quite the turnout.