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Posted: April 15, 2014 10:00 p.m.

Mansfield still trying to set election date

Mansfield officials are still trying to pick dates to hold a special election to permanently fill the mayor’s seat, which was vacated when Estona Middlebrooks resigned from the position March 6.

Interim Mayor Jeff Riley, who is filling the spot because he was the Mayor Pro Tem, said at Monday’s council meeting that qualifying could be held Aug. 20-22 with the official election Sept. 23. The issue, however, is Riley’s situation.
In order to qualify for mayor, Riley would have to vacate his council seat; he was elected to the Post 3 seat in November and would return to that seat if another person was elected mayor. When asked Monday, Riley said he has not yet decided if he plans to run for mayor.

If Riley were to vacate his seat, that would trigger a requirement to hold a special election to fill his council seat, because his term would still have three-plus years left.

Unless Riley vacated his seat with enough advance warning, the city likely wouldn’t be able to combine the qualifying and election for the two seats. Elections have to officially be advertised in The Covington News, because it’s the legal organ for Newton County, at least 29 days ahead of any election, Riley said, referencing state law.

If only one person runs for each seat, the issue of when each seat is filled is minor as no election is held and there are no costs. However, an election can cost around $6,000 for a small city — based on estimates from the neighboring town of Newborn — with much of the cost coming from the need to hire staff for 21 days of early voting.

So, having two elections would take an unexpected chunk out of the budget.

Riley said the Newton County Board of Elections said the elections can’t be combined with any other election dates, such as the July 22 primary runoff date or the Nov. 4 General Election.

The council decided to table the decision Monday so Riley could call the Georgia Secretary of State’s office for more information.

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