City prepares for 2001 vote

Published 6:00 am Friday, November 24, 2000

As the outcome of the presidential election remains uncertain,Brookhaven officials are starting to gear up for their ownmunicipal elections scheduled for next spring.

“It’s getting to be that time,” said City Clerk Iris Rudman, whohas been attending several Secretary of State’s Office seminars inpreparation for the city elections.

Rudman said candidates can start qualifying after Jan. 1. Thequalifying deadline is March 1.

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The city election schedule calls for the first primary to beheld May 1 and runoffs, where needed, will be May 15. The generalelection is June 5.

With U.S. census totals not expected before April 1, though,some cities in the state are finding some difficulty in followingthat schedule. Census total arrivals and qualifying deadlines makeit impossible for cities to redraw ward lines in time for theelection.

The cities, mainly larger ones with a specific form ofgovernment requiring redistricting, are seeking legislative help toremove the statutory election requirements. That would allow themto hold elections under current lines and redraw them beforeelections four years later.

State law is silent on Brookhaven’s mayor-aldermen form ofgovernment; therefore, it has some options in how to proceed withits election.

Leslie Scott, assistant secretary of state for elections, saidcities like Brookhaven may hold elections next year under currentward lines, or they may change the date. However, postponingelections would require either court or legislative approval.

“Most cities are required to have elections next year. You can’tjust opt out of that,” Scott said.

Mentioning comments heard at election seminars, Scott saidcities are leaning toward having elections next year on schedule.She said that is the politically popular thing to do.

Rudman said Brookhaven will probably go forward with electionsas scheduled next year. She planned to make that recommendation tothe board of aldermen, most likely at their next meeting.

Scott said the census and city election overlap happens onlyonce every 20 years. Twenty years ago, she surmised, most citieswere still electing their councilmen on an at-large basis and therewas not a timing problem over census total and wardredistricting.

Brookhaven has aldermen representing three predominantly whiteand three predominantly black wards, with one alderman elected onan at large basis.

If elections are held under current ward lines, Scott said itwould up to an individual to legally challenge the election withthe contention they violate one-man, one-vote provisions. She saidthe possibility of legal challenges would depend on the city.

“It’s going to be municipality by municipality and what thelitigious atmosphere is in your town,” Scott said.