On Saturday, January 26, the new Elections Supervisor for Bibb County , Jeanetta Watson and a member of the Bibb County Board of Elections, Democrat Ronnie Miley, appeared on Central Georgia's largest television station in Macon and discussed local politics on the weekly public affairs broadcast, 'Close-Up'.
There are still many questions that haven't been answered several months after Bibb County voters went to the polls in a July 31, 2012 summer primary and passed a consolidation referendum with 56 percent of the vote despite tens of thousands of registered Bibb voters not casting a ballot.
Miley, who is a member of the Board of Elections, had mentioned that non-partisan legislation could have an impact on the special elections this year.
State Sen. Cecil Staton with Rep. Allen Peake's blessing, have made a push to get non-partisan election legislation quickly passed in the 2013 session of the General Assembly even though they had originally voted for HR-1171 last year to keep party or 'partisan' elections.
Watson, who took over for Elaine Carr as elections supervisor, added if the non-partisan elections legislation passes through the Georgia General Assembly this year, then it would eliminate the general primary during the summer and there would only be a November election.
Conceivably, if Republicans get their way with non-partisan elections, the general election ballot would consist of multiple candidiates--not ncessarily two, but three or more-- for each office and would likely trigger a run-off in some races which would commence weeks later.
Historically, run-offs even in a presidential year has lower turnout, but in a municpal election, it could be even lower and this would favor Republicans moreso than Democrats.
Bibb County has historically been a reliably 'blue' or Democratic leaning county, especially in presidential elections.
However, with HR-1171 designed to abolish the majority-black Macon CIty Council and majority-black Bibb County Commission, Republicans see an opening to take complete control of local government for the first time in decades or at the very least introduce gridlock courtesy of the two-thirds mandate in order to pass a budget with the advent of the nine-member Macon-Bibb commission.
If Republicans have control of the appropriations (budget), programs will be cut, jobs will be lost, pensions will definitely be compromised, privitizing services would become the norm, and voting locations will be eventually consolidated.
The moderator, Randall Savage, had asked in the interview and discussion for qualifying dates, but Watson said the Board of Elections is working hard to get things coordinated and would release that information to the public in the near future.
Watson explains that the Board of elections is going through the process of planning elections as if there would be a primary elections which is tentatively set for July 16.
Qualifying dates haven't been set, but it will be a date sometime during the late spring or early summer regardless if non-partisan elections passes through the General Assembly or not.
Miley says the early voting period will be significantly shorter, but also expressed an interest in adding additional early voting locations in the future to help make voting more accessible for the community.
Watson made a point with this upcoming local election classified as a 'special election' then the early voting period of 21 days wouldn't be applicable and the number of days could be significantly shorter. However, for now, early voting information is still a mystery and has yet to be determined.
Watson explains that it has been a "challenging transition" with the passage of House Bill 1171 which demands that Macon and Bibb County merge as one government.
Miley admits that the newly drawn nine districts can be "confusing". If one lives on a particular street in Macon, the voter could live on a street in which multiple districts exist. In essence, your next door neighbor who lives in Macon could be in a totally different commission district.
Many of the district lines which had been drawn by Republican Allen Peake were designed to combine conservative precincts with higher participation rates with more progressive precinct that may have lower participation rates.
The majority of the Macon-based, Democratic-leaning districts have a dragon-based shape which resembles a gerrymandered district.
The following is a summary of the nine Macon-Bibb commission districts:
District 1: North Macon-Bibb /Forest Hill-Northside: A conservative-leaning district in which the largest commercial growth is occurring. Some of the major areas of District 1 is Northside Drive, Bass Road, Westchester, Carnegie Way, Rivoli Lakes and Forest Hill Road. Tatnall Square Academy resides in North Macon's District 1.
District 2: ** East Macon-Ft. Hill and River North: Neighborhoods east of Gray Highway in inner-city Macon that includes Fort Hill, Maynard, Woolfolk and Hall Streets are in the same district as North Macon neighborhoods that include River North, Woodland Drive, Briarcliff Rd, Hickory Ridge Drive and Tiffin Circle.
Despite this gerrymandered district having a plurality of African-Americans, local Republicans led by Allen Peake helped to design this city commission district with the expectation that lower voter turnout will persist in non-presidential years.
The affluent, heavily Republican, mostly white neighborhoods of unincorporated Bibb and North Macon were the driving force in voting for HB-1171 . District 2 includes a growing commercial district which features outlets such as the Northgate Village Shopping Center and Town and Country Shopping Center
District 3: Ocmulgee-East Macon/Jeffersonville: This a majority-black, Democratic leaning district which includes areas by the Regional Airport along with streets such as Millerfield and Jeffersonville Road.
District 4: Northwest Bibb /Lake Wildwood: This district is one of the smallest, but most conservative districts in Bibb County. Residents who live near Lake Wildwood off Forysth Road in northwest Bibb County preside in this district.
Other areas of District 4 include Tucker Road, Old Forysth Road, Bass Road, Rivoli Drive, Ayers Road and Peake Road. First Presbyterian Day School and Stratford Academy, are of two of Bibb's private schools which reside in the predominately conservative District 4
District 5: ** Hillcrest-Central Macon/Ingleside-Pierce : Pio Nono Ave. connects majority-black neighborhoods with Pierce/Ingleside and Republican-leaning North Macon neighborhoods.
Some of the other neighborhoods near Ingleside in North Macon in District 5 include streets such as Burrus Road, Lee Road, Castlewood Drive, King Alfred and Northwoods Drive.Neighborhoods surrounding Central High School on Holt Ave, near Hillcrest and Napier makes up one part of the district and streets that join Montpelier Ave which flows into Columbus Road going west is another stretch of streets that encompasses District 5.
District 6: West Bibb-Lizella/Thomaston: District 6 is seen as a relatively safe conservative-performing district, but one of the subtle differences for some Lizella/West Bibb voters who live off (Old) Columbus and Knoxville Rd --normally part of the progressive-leaning HAZZARD 3 precinct in presidential and congressional elections -- are now included in this new formed district. So it is a tad more racially diverse.
It is conceivable that a Democratic candidate can get close to percent 45 of the vote in this Bibb County-based district.
Some of the main areas or roads in District 6 are the following: Knoxville Rd., Columbus Rd., Thomaston Rd., Heath Rd, Bethel Church Road, Hopewell Rd., Lower Thomaston Rd., and Rogers Rd.
District 7: * South Bibb/ Rutland-Burghard: This South Macon-Bibb district is a conservative-leaning which include areas of South Macon and South Bibb.
Some of the major roads and streets of District 7 are Skipper Rd., Sardis Church Rd., Hartley Bridge Rd., Jones Rd., and Allen Rd., Houston Rd., and southern areas of Bloomfield Road (Sattefrield, Fredrica, Deborah, Leone Drive, Deeb Drive) near Burghard Elementary School. Village Green is also part of District 7.
District 8: Southwest-Macon/Bloomfield/Rocky Creek: This a majority-black, Democrat -leaning precinct that encompasses areas south of Eishenhower Parkway, neighborhoods that surround Southwest High School and Jessie Rice Elementary.
Alphabet City and large areas of Bloomfield are part of District 8. Some of the local businesses and notable landmarks are the Westgate Shopping Mall which sits near the intersection of Eishenhower and Pio Nono. Mercer University's campus is a part of District 8 along with Bloomfield Community Park
Some of the individual streets of District 8 include Rice Mill Rd., Williamson Rd., Canterbury Rd., Walker Rd., Susses Dr., Berkshire Dr., Winston Dr., Plant St., Williams St., Little Richard Pennymon Blvd.and Cedar St.
District 9: * West Macon-Eishenhower/Vineville: Eishenhower Pkwy/Log Cabin/Napier connects majority-black neighborhoods, West Macon and Macon Mall District
Some of the more notable landmarks and businesses in District 9 are Eishenhower Crossing, Home Depot, Macon Memorial Park, Macon Flea Market, Central Georgia Tech, Brookhaven Apartments, Riley Elementary and Morgan Elementary
Some of the streets and neighborhoods that comprise District 9: Neighborhoods east of Interstate 475, Presidential Parkway, Brookhaven Rd.,Westminister, New Castle, Log Cabin/Columbus Rd., Hollingsworth Rd, Robinson Rd., Scotland Ave., Edna Place, Cypress Place, Greenbriar Ct