Georgia primary could be postponed due to redistricting challenge
Delaying the primary could potentially allow Jones to address concerns raised by conservatives of the Supreme Court of the United States judges in a redistricting decision earlier this week.
The High Court has stayed a lower court ruling that Alabama should draw new congressional districts to increase black voting power, in part because there is little time to create new maps before the May 24 primary.
“I could change the whole schedule,” Jones said. “I need to hear all the evidence before I make a decision,” likely shortly after court hearings conclude early next week.
The plaintiffs ask Jones to order the General Assembly of Georgia to redraw the political maps so that they include more black majority districts. The black population of Georgia increased by around 500 000 people over the past decade, but the prosecution argued that the redistribution has left black voters without the possibility of proportional representation.
Lawyers defending the state have said redoing the redistricting or delaying the election could cause major problems for rushed election officials tasked with accurately updating 7.7 million voter registers to ensure everyone is assigned to the proper Congress, State House, State Senate, County Commission, and School Districts.
Lynn Bailey, recently retired Richmond County chief electoral officer, said it would be difficult to prepare in time for the primary if Georgia district lines were redrawn next month.
“It would be chaos, of course. There would be a stampede,” said Bailey, a state witness. “We would work as hard as possible to make these deadlines work.”
Other county electoral officers testified for the plaintiffs that if the primary were delayed, they would have more time to organize a smooth primary before the Nov. 8 general election.
Fulton County Chief Electoral Officer Richard Barron said there is a danger that voters will feel disenfranchised if redistricting does not give them adequate opportunities for representation.
“It can affect turnout if voters feel the process isn’t fair,” Barron said.
Returning officers have experience adapting to election delays. In 2020, the state’s presidential primary was twice postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic before finally taking place in June.
“It would be tough, but as election officials, we’re used to doing a lot in a short time,” Muscogee County Chief Electoral Officer Nancy Boren said. “It’s always good to have extra time.”
The plaintiffs said the May 24 primary could be delayed until July 26 and still allow election officials enough time to prepare ballots, test voting machines and meet deadlines for mailing ballots. correspondence to foreign and military voters prior to the general election.
County election officials previously asked the General Assembly to move the primary back a month due to a tight redistricting schedule. The Secretary of State’s office has set a Feb. 18 deadline for counties to update voter information to reflect their new districts, and candidates must file to run for office the week of March 7. .
A resolution election officials passed at the August meeting of the Georgian Association of Voter Registration and Election Officials called for the postponement, but lawmakers never considered a bill to change the date of the elections.