Bibb Dems Ask Justice Dept. to Make New Government Partisan
Leaders of the Bibb County Democratic Party have written a letter to the civil rights division of the U.S. Justice Department asking that elections for the consolidated Macon-Bibb government be partisan.
The letter looks at voter turnout levels for elections held in November versus other times of the year and notes lower turnouts for elections in July. It says moving the elections to this time is an effort by Republicans to disenfranchise black voters.
The party also claims that any effort to change the law that created the consolidated government should be put to the voters in referendum rather than approved by a Republican-controlled legislature.
Democratic officials were visiting the offices of Macon City Council Member Elaine Lucas throughout the day Monday to sign the letter.
Here is the text of the letter:
"In July of 2012, the citizens of both the city of Macon and Bibb County voted to consolidate our governments. One stipulation of this consolidation vote was that the public offices would be filled by a partisan election held in November. The charter creating the new government was quite clear on this point. However, in the very next session, the Georgia General Assembly passed SB 25, 26, 30 and 31, which effectively made all municipal elections in Macon-Bibb nonpartisan. In doing so, they have also moved the election from November 2013 to July 2013. Unlike consolidation, this was done without a referendum, and pushed by legislators with very little jurisdiction over Macon-Bibb.
"The Bibb County Democratic Party denounces this legislation as a move to subvert the will of the people. The people voted for partisan elections in July of 2012. Since this was a referendum on all of the issues concerning consolidation, there should have been a referendum to change any part it. By passing this legislation a mere seven months after the original vote, the Georgia General Assembly has essentially pulled a “bait-and-switch.” We are not familiar enough with our new community for any common wisdom to have developed concerning its new dynamics, much less for it to be the basis of changing our elections.
"Not only does this subvert the will of the people, this legislation dilutes the strength of the population. In the 2012 primary elections, which were held in July, the total voter turnout was 40%. In the following general election, which were held in November, the total voter turnout of 73%. Our party is concerned with the severe drop-off in voter participation diluting both the overall voting population, as well as populations protected by the Voting Rights Act. This creates a retrogressive effect on our community’s, and our minority voters’, ability to elect people who truly serve and represent our interests.
"Legislators who crafted this legislation represent only 35% of our community. Four out of five of the legislators who supported this legislation do not even live in Bibb County. They should have consulted with our mayor, city council and count commission. Our mayor is on record that he feels that this should have been put up for a referendum. If the legislators were so certain that they understood the will of their constituents, then we should have been given a referendum. As it stands, it was not, and this represents a gross violation of federal law and our shared values of democracy and self-determination.
"In summation, the committee of the Bibb County Democratic Party is prepared to stand against this veiled attempt to thwart democracy. We speak on behalf of constituents County-wide, who have voiced their displeasure to us. We ask that the Justice Department deny preclearance to all legislation involving nonpartisan election in Macon-Bibb."