Bulloch County commissioners set qualifying fees Tuesday for the eight county posts that will appear on the May 20 primary ballots. Only one of those posts, clerk of courts, is elected countywide.
Meanwhile, Gov. Nathan Deal signed a bill Tuesday fixing May 20 as the statewide primary date, making it coincide with the primary for federal Senate and House races. It will be Georgia's earliest state primary in memory.
With an open U.S. Senate seat drawing upwards of a dozen announced candidates, the governor's race, most other state offices up and a race in the 12th Congressional District, 2014 is in some ways a big election year in Bulloch County.
But at the county level, it would ordinarily be an off year, with only three county commissioner seats and four school board seats up.
"This is what we call the small election year, for us, because you don't have all the other county officers running," Bulloch County Election Supervisor Patricia Lanier Jones said.
Last elected in 2012, the county's constitutional officers, such as the sheriff and tax commissioner, will not appear on the ballot again until 2016. This would ordinarily apply to the clerk of courts as well.
However, Bulloch County Clerk of Courts Teresa Tucker resigned effective Dec. 31, 2013, after pleading guilty to two counts of violation of public office, which is a felony. Charles Sikes, a former special agent in charge of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's Statesboro office, is the interim clerk.
A nonpartisan special election is slated to be held with the May 20 primary, potentially extending to the July 22 primary runoff, for a clerk to serve the remainder of the term through 2016.
The school board members and county commissioners elected this year will start fresh four-year terms in January 2015. But the new clerk of courts can be sworn in as soon as the election results are certified and the governor signs an authorization, Jones said.
Board of Commissioners seats up for election are District 1-B, currently held by Anthony Simmons; District 2-B, held by Walter Gibson; and District 2-D, held by Robert Rushing. Board of Education seats up this year are those in District 2, currently held by Mike Sparks; District 4, held by Steve Hein; District 5, held by Vernon Littles; and District 6, held by Anshul Jain.
The qualifying fees, based on 3 percent of annual pay for each position, are $225 for county commissioner, $72 for school board, and $1,894.94 for Superior Court clerk.
Earlier deadlines both for candidates to qualify and voters to register come with the May 20 primary date, which is six weeks to two months earlier than recent Georgia primaries, traditionally held in July.
Candidate qualifying for the May 20 primary will be held March 3-7. Until that time and until they pay their fees, candidates may have announced, but they're not officially candidates, Jones noted. They can raise campaign money before qualifying, but must first file a declaration of intention to accept campaign contributions with the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission before collecting any money, she said.
The deadline to register to vote in the May 20 election is April 21.
Voters who have moved, stopped using a post office box or had a name change should also make these changes with the registrar's office by this deadline, Bulloch County Deputy Registrar Shontay Jones said. She encourages voters to file changes at her office in the courthouse and not wait until the last day, especially if registering by mail. Voters can check their registration online through the "My Voter Page" operated by the Georgia Secretary of State's Office at http://mvp.sos.state.ga.us.
The May primary results from a federal judge's ruling last summer that Georgia needed to allow more time for overseas and military ballots to be received in the event of a runoff.
But the ruling applied only to federal races until state legislative action. By last weekend, both chambers of the Georgia General Assembly had passed legislation by overwhelming margins adopting the May 20 primary.
The bill that Deal signed into law Tuesday also sets July 22 as the primary runoff date and Dec. 2 as the runoff date, if one is needed, for the Nov. 4 general election.
Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9454.