Lawsuit against city of Augusta challenges May election day

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

RICHMOND COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW) -- A lawsuit is brewing against the city of Augusta, the mayor and the director of the board of elections.

It stems from a date change for this year's mayor and commission seat elections.

The ACLU claims the change violates the Voting Rights Act.
Every four years, voters head to the polls to decide who should be Augusta's mayor and who fills commission seats.

The election would normally be held during the November general elections but this year it's scheduled for the same time as the state primary.

According to the lawsuit, moving the election dates would hurt minority voting turnout across the county.

Representative Ernest Smith, one of the plaintiffs, says the Department of Justice ruled against moving the election, but the Georgia legislature still voted in favor of the move.

The DOJ states, "in percentage terms, black persons were 55 percent less likely to vote in July than in November." In 2010, black voters made up 53 percent of the electorate in November but only 43 percent in July.

The lawsuit also states that the state of Georgia did not get approval over the voting change, which makes the Department of Justice's ruling still in effect.

A judge will sift through all details of the lawsuit and determine which voting date is legal.

The plaintiffs seek an injunction to prevent the voting change to take effect.

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