Election change lawsuit could cost Augusta thousands

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News 12 First at Five/ April, 23, 2014

AUGUSTA, Ga (WRDW) -- Augusta leaders are gearing up for a fight after a recent change in election dates. Now elected officials are worried a new lawsuit could affect the May 20 vote.

One commissioner is worried that if the county loses the taxpayers will be picking up the bill.

"It could cost the city and it's unfortunate because the taxpayer's of Richmond County didn't do anything to deserve having to pay if we lose this lawsuit," Commissioner Donnie Smith said.

Smith is concerned about being named in the lawsuit. The mayor isn't.

"I've been named in a lot of lawsuits, but I don't take it personal," said Mayor Deke Copenhaver.

The Mayor, Commission and Board of Elections are all named in the case. Local leaders switched the election from November to may after the change was set by state law.

"It does add another point of confusion in a year that is filled with change anyway," said BOE Supervisor Lynn Bailey.

The ACLU is suing on behalf of two lawmakers and a group of citizens. They're asking a judge to put a stop on the May 20 election for mayor and commissioners and to answer who has legal authority to change the date.

It could cost the city thousands to defend in court.

"We followed the law set by the general assembly and signed in by the Governor. We are being sued and the taxpayer will have to foot the bill," said Commissioner Donnie Smith.

"If any wrong is done, we need to have it checked out," said Commissioner Bill Lockett.

The lawsuit quotes data cited by the DOJ on how moving the election from November to July would negatively affect minorities. Those named in the lawsuit are pointing to Atlanta.

"We do still have an election to conduct on May 20. This will be an important election," Bailey said.

Now, with less than 30 days to go when people head to the polls will be up to a judge.

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