Last month, we wrote about the possible changes to the runoff system and the impact on elections.
Tom Crawford of Capitol Impact summarized it this way:
Jones is presiding over a lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice against Georgia and Secretary of State Brian Kemp in his capacity as the state’s chief elections officer. The lawsuit attacks Georgia’s system of holding runoff elections on the grounds that runoffs don’t provide enough time for military personnel and citizens living overseas to cast absentee ballots. Federal law requires that they have at least 45 days to send in ballots.
Jones signed an order April 30 ruling in favor of the Justice Department and ordering the state to come up with a solution for providing that 45-day window for absentee ballots.
Kemp has proposed a change in procedures for the 2014 elections to comply with the judge’s order. The primary runoff elections are scheduled for Aug. 5. To meet the 45-day requirement, Kemp says military and overseas voters could be given until Sept. 9 to return their absentee runoff ballots by mail—five weeks after the runoff election has been held. The general election is set for Nov. 4, with a runoff if necessary on Dec. 2. Kemp has proposed that overseas voters could return those ballots as late as Dec. 30—which would be nearly a month after the runoff election is held.
There was some question as to whether the VRA decision rendered the end of last month by the Supreme Court would effect this case but this is controlled by the MOVE Act, which is outside of the Voting Rights Act.
Today, Jim Galloway updates us at the Political Insider:
Georgia’s 2014 primary season may be about to shrink by more than a month – from the traditional mid-July event to June 3.
That’s still after the largest school systems in metro Atlanta have disgorged their students, but before most Georgians hit the road for summer vacations. Which means the make-up of the GOP primary audience could be significantly different – perhaps larger, and less dominated by activists.
The U.S. Department of Justice had long objected to the lack of turnaround time for ballots cast overseas by the military in Georgia’s races. Secretary of State Brian Kemp had offered to delay closing out the votes for a longer period – as was done last year. But the DOJ has rejected that – and a federal judge is likely to follow suit.
Read the pertinent document here. An outline of the DOJ plan, from Kemp spokesman Jared Thomas:
— The DOJ’s proposed plan is to require our federal primary election to be held on the Tuesday 22 weeks before the general election, which would be June 3rd for 2014.
— For any primary runoffs, the DOJ proposes that those be held 13 weeks before the general election, which would be August 5th for 2014.
— For any federal runoff election in the general election, the DOJ proposes that the runoff be held 9 weeks after the general election, which would be January 6, 2015 for the 2014 election cycle.
The next step is up to Judge Steve Jones. He’s got the big stick in this one. His ruling goes but will be subject to appeal or legislative action to clarify. If Judge Jones makes a decision quickly, the legislature can act early in the session in 2014.