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Judges ruling could mean more election days
Hall County Elections Chief Clerk Vonda Edwards processes voter registrations Tuesday afternoon at the Hall County Government Center.

“Yikes,” seemed to sum up the response of Gainesville residents to the idea of voting in six elections next year.

Because of a recent court ruling, Georgia currently has two election calendars with different dates for federal elections and state elections. If things don’t change, elections could be chaotic and more expensive in 2014.

“It’s kind of annoying,” said Gainesville resident Katie Schmid, who plans on being a freshman at the University of Georgia this fall. “I feel like it’s going to be more difficult, you’re not going to get as many people coming out, they’re just going to pick and choose what they want to do.”

Elections scheduled for next year include congressional races, the governor’s race and local races, including primaries and general elections. Having two separate calendars adds two elections for the year at $100,000 in extra expense, said Hall County Elections Director Charlotte Sosebee.

“The voters would have to go to (the) polls more,” Sosebee said. “It would be very costly.”

The U.S. Department of Justice sued Georgia about a year ago because the state wasn’t able to send absentee ballots to military and oversea voters 45 days before a federal election, as required by law. Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office said it was working with Gov. Nathan Deal and members of the General Assembly to work out a solution.

In letters to election officials across the state, Kemp said there was a strong likelihood that the two calendars would be merged.

“We’re looking at all possible options to address this,” said Cody Whitlock, communications coordinator.
District Court Judge Steve Jones, however, found the plan to fix the problem submitted by the state lacking in several ways, including the fact that no legislation needed as part of the plan was introduced in the 2013 legislative session and the court found no reasonable assurance it would be addressed in next year’s term.

Voter interest and turnout is a concern state lawmakers have.

Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville, said Kemp’s office is filing an appeal and the General Assembly expects to deal with the issue in the next term. The qualifying period for federal offices, March 17 through March 21, is during the term.

Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, said the more times people have to go to the polls, the more disinterested they may become.

“Turnout is going to be diminished with every election,” he said.

The federal calendar has an earlier primary election than the state calendar. It has its primary set for June 3, while the state has its on July 15. It also has a federal general election runoff on Jan. 6, 2015.

“I’m sure we would want to come in and fix that,” Rogers said. “Any elected official would be concerned you wear out voters, some can get confused when they need to vote, when they need to go to the polls. I think the secretary of state hit it right on the head when he said this is going to cause chaos and people voting — a lot of confusion — and then the election officials would be very confused too.”

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