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Sen. Burt Jones Speaks Nonpartisan Elections

March 15, 2013
An "I'm a Georgia Voter" sticker displays on a handbag.

Among the first bills Governor Nathan Deal signed during this legislative session are ones that change voting law to allow nonpartisan elections for the new Macon-Bibb County government.

With the consolidated government set to launch operations in January 2014, Senate bills 25, 30 and 31 will free citizens come this summer to vote off political party lines for the mayor and commissioners, board of education members, and water and sewerage authority members.

After attending a number of town halls meetings and listening to his constituents' comments, first-term state senator Burt Jones of Jackson decided to support the bills. Here he explains why nonpartisan elections are so important a tool.

"In small towns, like where I’m from, what the nonpartisan elections do is provide a way for people to become more educated on their candidates, as opposed to just voting a party line," he says. "The local nonpartisan elections particularly help in primary races when you need to pull either a Republican or Democratic ticket.

"Take me, for example. I had a lot of Democrats that wanted to vote for me, but because our sheriff was a Democrat, they wanted to vote for our sheriff at the same time. So, they had to pull either a Democratic ticket or a Republican ticket. Had we allowed nonpartisan elections, the voters could have gone in there during the primary and voted for whoever they thought best for the job. They’d be voting for a person, not a party affiliate."

Jones recognizes that any changes to voting law create uncertainty for political parties, but that uncertainty, he says, distributes in equal measure.

"The short of it is - if the local people want nonpartisan races, they should be given that authority to choose."

As a provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the U.S. Department of Justice must review and approve the new voting laws before any changes take effect.

About the Author

GeorgiaGov Writer Noralil Ryan ForesNoralil Ryan Fores writes about business, taxes, elections and the environment for GeorgiaGov. She's a graduate of Florida State University's film school and Syracuse University's journalism program.