July 16 elections for the new consolidated Macon and Bibb County government will almost certainly be postponed.
In a letter obtained by GPB Tuesday, officials with the U.S. Department of Justice said they don't have enough information to decide whether new local voting procedures violate the Voting Rights Act. They requested extensive additional documentation.
In February, the Bibb County Democratic Party complained to federal authorities, saying legislation making Macon-Bibb races nonpartisan and moving local elections from November to July would depress minority turnout.
Bibb County attorney Virgil Adams told The Telegraph Tuesday afternoon he can't imagine being able to reply in time to get a decision before the July election. The Justice Department would have 60 days in which to intervene after receiving the information they've requested.
The complete letter is below.
State Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon), one of the architects of the election changes, said he's disappointed by Justice Department's decision, or lack thereof.
"We’re all trying to figure out what happens now," Peake said. "But I think the practical reality is the election will be delayed, maybe a couple months, maybe until November, which would be fine."
Further complicating matters is Shelby County vs. Holder, an Alabama case before the U.S. Supreme Court challenging Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which gives the federal government say over elections in Georgia and other states with a history of racial bias at the polls. A decision in that case is expected in late June.
"There may be a ruling from the Supreme Court before the Department of Justice would issue a final decision, and which would make any decision by the Department of Justice a moot point," Peake said.