Secretary of State Raffensperger Backs Bill To Codify Special Election Practice

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger issued a press release a few days ago saying that he backs HB 757. The bill would codify the process of setting special election qualifying dates–a process that has been followed by state officials for about four decades now–into state law.

The bill that’s being carried by House Judiciary Chairman Barry Fleming (R-Harlem) codifies that the secretary of state can set the qualifying dates for state and federal special elections and grants the authority to county election superintendents can set qualifying dates of special elections for county offices. This would set into law a 1986 formal opinion by then-Attorney General Michael Bowers that was requested by then-Democratic Secretary of State Max Cleland.

The practice has occurred for over 30 years and isn’t likely to change, but making it a part of state law gives certainty and clarity that the practice won’t change:

“This is about providing Georgia voters certainty and order by putting into law what has been the practice for over 30 years,” Raffensperger said. “The last thing voters need now is another frivolous, politically motivated lawsuit based on muddled legal reasoning.”

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger

“The existing process has worked smoothly for over 30 years, and this bill simply puts it into code to avoid any confusion for candidates or voters,” Fleming said.

Representative Barry Fleming (R-Harlem)

The current process requires that “the qualifying period to be at least two and a half days and occurs no sooner than the date of the call of the election and no later than 60 days prior to the election for federal election or 25 days prior to the election for state elections” according to the press released from the Secretary of State’s office.

The current process requires that “the qualifying period to be at least two and a half days and occurs no sooner than the date of the call of the election and no later than 60 days prior to the election for federal election or 25 days prior to the election for state elections” according to the press released from the Secretary of State’s office.

An excerpt from the opinion states that the Georgia General Assembly intended to give the authority to election superintendent, but apparently that wasn’t clear in the law with an official opinion requested by former Secretary Cleland back in the ’80s:

“…It appears that the General Assembly intended to authorize the election superintendent to choose a period for qualifying between the two dates specified,” Bowers wrote in 1986. “…This interpretation is consistent with the apparent desire of the General Assembly to save costs for special elections by making it easier to hold special elections at the same time as regularly scheduled elections…. An election superintendent is authorized to place the names of the candidates in a special primary or special election on the same ballot as the general primary and general election if the dates for the closing of the registration are the same.”

HB 757 also makes the voter registration deadline for state primary runoffs match the deadline for federal primary run-offs: 30 days before the runoff election. Currently, Georgia law stipulates that voters must register prior to the primary in order to vote in a state primary runoff, but federal law allows voters to register to vote in the runoff up to 30 days prior to the federal runoff election. This would clarify potential confusion that could occur by eliminating the possibility that voters could be eligible to vote in federal runoff elections but not in state runoff elections.

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