The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia told the Long County Board of Education and the county commission Friday that another election will be required.
The earliest a new election could take place is March 19.
Long County School System Superintendent Dr. Robert Waters said the decision was made by a panel of three judges that heard arguments in the case of the board of education and the board of commissioners versus the Long County Board of Elections over redistricting. The suit against the election board was filed after the civil-rights division of the U.S. Justice Department ruled Aug. 27 that the county’s proposed district maps violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
With the decision, all district races from the July 31 primary will have to be run again, but county elections will not. At least five seats contested in July will be affected — including four races in which incumbents initially were defeated.
Reactions from some of the candidates focused on the effect of another election on taxpayers.
“From what I understand, the county is going to have to pay a man from Atlanta to come down here and redraw our district lines,” said Gerald Blocker, who defeated Commissioner David Richardson in District 1 in July. “Personally, I don’t see how anyone can do a better job than our board of election did. But with this decision, the taxpayers could end up having to pay for two more elections if we have a person run as a Republican, and then you have to have a runoff. I hate it that they are going to have to pay for all of this.”
Janet Watford, who defeated BoE member Linda DeLoach in District 4, also said that she was upset that the county would have to pay for these costs.
“The citizens of Long County do not deserve this,” Watford said. “Now, with this decision, they are going to have to pay whatever amount this bill comes to, and it’s just not right”, said Watford.
BoE Chairman Dempsey Golden, who defeated Dr. Carolyn Williamson in District 2, said he regrets how this turned out, but that going through the U.S. District Court was the fastest way to resolve the matter.
“My upmost concern is the cost to the taxpayers,” Golden said. “This should have never happened, and it should have been done right the first time. But by going this route, it was the most timely way to get these lines drawn right, based upon the decision made by the Justice Department.”
Commissioner Wallace Shaw, who was defeated by Robert Long in District 2, said that it is a regrettable situation, but that the decision by the judges had to be made.
“It is a regrettable situation, but the boundaries for the districts have to be redrawn, and the federal judges have put things into motion to get this done,” he said.
Another race that will have to be decided again is the commissioner’s race in District 5 between incumbent Bobby Walker and Dwight Gordon, who won that election.
Also, the possibility looms over races in which candidates were not challenge. New candidates could qualify to run against them.