Fayette County Commission qualifying starts May 30
When the smoke clears on noon Friday, Fayette voters will have a clear picture of who will run for the three posts on the Fayette County Commission that will be up for grabs this year.
Qualifying for the posts begins Wednesday at 9 a.m. and ends at noon Friday. It was delayed a week to wait for the final word from the U.S. Justice Department on the new five-district map adopted by the commission in February.
The posts up for election this year are the Post 1 seat held by Robert Horgan, the Post 2 seat held by Herb Frady and the Post 3 seat held by Lee Hearn. Frady has already said he will not seek re-election this year as the 80-year-old incumbent is retiring from local politics.
The new map retains the at-large voting process, which means that every voter in the county has the opportunity to vote on all five commission posts.
The new map took a long route to approval after it was approved by the commission at a February special called meeting, but it failed to gain consideration by the Georgia Legislature this year.
The map was revived by court order of U.S. District Judge Timothy S. Batten after a federal lawsuit filed by Peachtree City attorney Rick Lindsey alleged that the old three-district map was wildly out of proportion in terms of the population in each district.
Batten approved the new five-district map, which has five districts of near-equal population, which allowed the county to petition the Justice Department for approval.
The Justice Department approval came Tuesday, May 22, but not until after Judge Batten signed an order to delay qualifying a week so the Justice Department had extra time to provide its decision.
County officials decided it was better to delay qualifying to make sure the new five-district map was thoroughly vetted than to proceed with qualifying for the commission seats with a map that hadn’t been officially approved by the Justice Department.
Using the new map without the Justice Department’s seal of approval could have opened the county up to lawsuits challenging the qualifying process, officials said.
The new five district map replaces the old three district map, which had three posts tied to the geographic districts while the remaining two posts only required a candidate to reside anywhere in Fayette County.
The retention of at-large voting for all five commission seats is significant in light of the pending district voting lawsuit filed in federal court by the local and national branches of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). That suit seeks to force the county commission and board of education to shift to district voting, a scheme in which voters would be allowed to vote for just one of the five representatives on each board.
The NAACP argues that by implementing district voting, the county commission and board of education could draw new district maps that would make it easier for a minority residents to be elected to a post on both boards.
The lawsuit is heading for a court hearing Wednesday with potential resolution of the suit later this year.