Wed., February 20, 2013 3:26pm (EST)

Dems Ask Feds To Block Nonpartisan Elections
By Adam Ragusea
Updated: 1 year ago

MACON, Ga.  —  
The Bibb County Democratic Party fired off a blistering letter (shown) to federal officials Wednesday, calling a new state law affecting local elections there a “veiled attempt to thwart democracy.” (Photo: Adam Ragusea / GPB News)
The Bibb County Democratic Party fired off a blistering letter (shown) to federal officials Wednesday, calling a new state law affecting local elections there a “veiled attempt to thwart democracy.” (Photo: Adam Ragusea / GPB News)
The Bibb County Democratic Party fired off a blistering letter to federal officials Wednesday, calling a new state law affecting local elections there a “veiled attempt to thwart democracy.”

Governor Nathan Deal signed legislation last week that will make most local elections in Macon and Bibb County nonpartisan when the two governments merge in 2014.

Bibb Democratic Party Chair Fred Swann characterized the new law as an attempt by Republicans to make their party more electable in this reliably blue county by removing party labels from the ballot.

"This decreases voter information with regard to where candidates stand," he said.

Swann also questioned the process by which voting districts were drawn for the new city-county commission, adding "It appears that it was meant to pit various Democrats against each other. That appears to be the effect of it."

The new districts have already been approved by the U.S. Department of Justice, which is empowered by the Voting Rights Act to block any changes in Georgia’s voting laws.

But the DOJ could still block the move toward nonpartisan elections, or the change in Macon and Bibb County's local election calendar.

Bibb County Attorney Virgil Adams said he submitted the changes to federal authorities for approval on Monday.

The Justice Department has 60 days in which to intervene, and they don’t need a letter of complaint in order to do so, according to a department spokesperson.

Still, Democrats expect their GOP counterparts will send their own letter urging the DOJ to approve these changes quickly, Swann said, so that poll workers can start preparing for an election that is now less than half a year away.

Bibb Republican Party chair Suzanne Wood said they are planning no such communication as of yet. They plan to let the process play out for now, she said.