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Posted: March 17, 2012 9:09 p.m.

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Newborn could have special election

The Town of Newborn is planning to hold a special election during the July Primary in an effort to fill Post 2, which had no candidates run during last November’s election.

However, the town is hoping that only one candidate qualifies, so that an election is not necessary, because the city doesn’t have the approximate $6,000 cost to have the election budgeted, said Town Clerk Lisa Rowe. 

Rowe said there is a person interested in running for office.

“The mayor and council are hoping that we only have one person qualify, so we will not have to have the election as it is not in our budget and we really cannot afford this expense,” Rowe said in an e-mail Friday. “Plus if we do have to have an election, since it will be the same day as the primary, people will have to come here to vote in the city election, and then go across the street to the Methodist Church to vote in the general primary. Some people may choose to only go to one place, so that will affect our election and/or the general primary.”

Rowe said the cost of an election would be close to $6000 to pay to have three people in the office for 21 days at eight hours a day, due to early voting, plus the cost of ballots. 

Newborn has an ordinance that allows a vacant seat to be filled by a vote of the council in the case of no one running or being elected, but the charter does not give the council such authority.

Because the charter is the supreme authority for any city, Newborn Attorney Joe Reitman attempted to have the charter changed by sending appropriate legislation to the Georgia General Assembly for approval.

However, the charter amendment was deemed by the state’s legislative counsel to be in conflict with a state law that states in the event of a failure to qualify or elect a special election must be called.

Currently, Dennis Fincher is holding the seat, but he is ready to step down, Reitman said, and he has only continued to hold the seat to benefit the town.

“He was a council member in the 2000-era for a number of years and is ready to retire, but because of his sense of public service to the community he is staying on a little while longer because the seat is vacant. State law allows that, but you can’t force someone to stay,” said Reitman, who wasn’t sure what the next step would be if no one qualified for the special election.

Qualifying is from May 23-25 and can be done at Newborn Town Hall.

Reitman was asked why state law prevented a town from appointing a replacement council member when no one qualified in the previous election.

“Part of it may be due process, public involvement, though openness is one of important elements of proposed charter amendment, because appointment would only be after public notice, and after two public hearings. We would have public involvement, but the issue is state law” Reitman said. “The state could amend, but the likelihood of amendment is very low…I give kudos to the legislative counsel for picking up on it.”

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