In the next few months the 2015 election cycle will be well under way for the two City Council posts currently held by Councilwoman Sue Robinson and Councilman Hubert Wells. I’ve already received several requests for information about how City elections are held in Dacula. So I have already shared information to one such request by a cub scout den as they work on their civics project and am posting this information for everyone who reads this City’s web site.
The City Charter requires that all council members including the mayor be elected from the city at large and elections are non-partisan. That means that each member is elected by all City voters. There are no “posts” or “districts” or “wards” as found in some municipalities. There are no primary elections in non-partisan elections—only the general election. The candidate must win by a majority vote of the electors who cast a ballot (50% + 1). If there are more than two candidates seeking the same seat, a runoff election between the two top votegetters is possible. The term of office is for four years, beginning at the first council meeting in January following the election. Municipal elections are held at municipal polling places (City Hall in Dacula’s case), but county, state, and federal election are held at regular County polling places. So if municipal and other elections are going on the same date, the voter has to go to two polling places. Some voters feel put out by having to go to two places. Every voter’s registration card has the polling place(s) listed for all elections in which the person is qualified to vote.
The City has an election in 2015 (first Tuesday after the first Monday of November), November 3, 2015, to elect two council members. In this case, the election will cover the seats held by the incumbents Sue Robinson and Hubert Wells. In 2017, the election will involve the seats of the other current incumbents including the mayor and two council members.
Qualifying will begin during the last week in August 2015 for this election cycle. “Qualifying” means stating that the person seeking the office meets the requirements of the City Charter to hold the office being sought and paying a qualifying fee or declaring a “pauper” status. A person “qualifies” for a specific seat that is up for election, i. e. the seat held currently by Ms. Robinson or Mr. Wells. The main requirements are that the person seeking office must have lived within the corporate boundaries of the city at least a year before the date of the election and must be a voter in the city. The Charter does not specify a minimum age (registered voter in the city takes care of that and citizenship), educational or other requirement for holding office.
In general, all this means that to hold office in Dacula, a candidate must:
- Live inside the City Limits for at least a year before the date of the election in which the candidate is running.
- Be at least 18 years of age (the age to register to vote in Georgia).
- Be a citizen of the United States (required to register to vote in Georgia).
- Pay a qualifying fee or declare that he/she cannot (currently 3% of annual salary).
I’ve tried to bold the important terms for scouting merit badge purposes.
Municipal governments in Georgia are creations of the General Assembly and thus state election law also applies (absentee voting, advance voting, hours of the polls, education of poll officers and worker, and the like). That’s kind of outside of this discussion. But it means that every city has a section in its Charter that sets out how that city conducts city elections, and every one may be slightly different.
We have nearly 2,500 registered voters in the City. We typically vote less than 500 in any given election. I’ve tried every tactic I can think of to encourage our most precious right—the right to choose our leaders by election. Tried to get more folks out to vote, mostly to no avail. To our Scout leaders, thanks for taking the time to mentor youngsters in this important civic responsibility.
Caveat: Election law changes on a regular basis.