On Tuesday, Atlantic Judicial Circuit Judge D. Jay Stewart ruled that the city of Ludowici will hold an election June 18 to fill two vacant city council seats.
Last August, local residents Janis Goode and Price Chapman filed a writ of mandamus against the city of Ludowici, Mayor James Fuller and the city council claiming that the 3rd and 4th districts had been without representation for an extended period of time. They said an election needed to be held to fill these seats. In November, Stewart heard from both sides on the issue and decided to research it before making a decision.
On Tuesday, Stewart said he had read the city’s charter and gave both sides the opportunity to speak before announcing his decision. Goode reiterated her previous points. City of Ludowici attorney Joe Kitchings said that the city was prepared to hold an election, but likely couldn’t coordinate it until June.
Ludowici Elections Superintendent Vanessa Cunningham agreed with Kitchings. She said that before an election could be held, the council and the U.S. Department of Justice need to approve new district maps, and public input must be gathered on the redistricting.
After court, Goode said she was happy about the judge’s order for an election, but she wasn’t happy about redistricting.
“I don’t like the idea that they are doing the redistricting. I think that by doing it now, they can still manipulate the lines,” Goode said.
Chapman said, “I think the judge evaluated the situation and ordered the next best legal date that an election could be held on. I’m satisfied, and I’m sure it will be done.”
Fuller said redistricting is necessary in order to prevent election results from being declared invalid, which has happened in Long County before.
“We have been planning to have an election. We told Janis that it was going to be in June, but we had do make sure we did things right. The county is in a mess with their election, and we didn’t want that to happen with ours. We never were doing anything underhanded or anything like that; we just wanted everything to be in order,” Fuller said.
During the council’s monthly meeting Tuesday, the new district maps unanimously were approved.