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Newborn officials want election cycle changed

NEWBORN — The Newborn Town Council voted Monday night to request a change to the town charter to allow town elections to take place on even-numbered years.

Currently the charter, amended in 2009, states that elections are to take place on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November 2009 and every two years thereafter. A charter change would require approval from the Georgia General Assembly.

Mayor Roger Sheridan said he wants the charter changed so that town elections can take place at the same time as county, state and federal elections.

Sheridan is hoping the Newton County Board of Elections will take over the town elections. He also wants voting to take place in one location. Currently, town elections are held at Town Hall while county, state and federal elections are held at Newborn United Methodist Church. Sheridan said the potential for a conflict is a stumbling block for voters who won’t likely go to two different places to vote on Election Day.

However, because municipal elections take place on odd-numbered years and county, state and federal elections take place on even-numbered years, Board of Elections Chairman Hugh Steele said he can’t recall a time when there has ever been such a conflict.

Steele said it’s within the Town Council’s power to change the precinct for the municipal elections, with approval from the Department of Justice. Steele said he does not believe it’s feasible for the Board of Elections to handle Newborn’s elections.

“My personal opinion is I would certainly not want to do that. Our staff is really completely overloaded now. As far as taking on an extra municipality, it would be difficult for us to do so,” he said.

Town officials estimate they spend close to $5,000 to host an election, mainly because the town is required to have two people at Town Hall for 21 days prior to the election for early voting. In 2009, only two people voted early in Newborn.

But Steele said he’s not sure if officials realize it will actually cost more if the Board of Elections takes over. The only municipal election handled by the Board of Elections is the city of Covington’s and the city reimburses the board for that, he said. The city of Covington paid $15,752.35 for the last election.

Though the city is larger than Newborn, and it might not cost the town as much, Steele said there would still be the cost of touchscreen voting machines. He said he does not believe the Board of Elections could legally utilize paper ballots, which are currently used by the town.

Sheridan said other county election offices handle elections for municipalities. Those include Morgan and Oconee counties.

“We don’t understand why we have to invent the wheel in order to get this election thing taken care of. It’s already being done in other places very simply and we’d kind of like to see it done here,” he said.

Newborn Attorney Joe Reitman said it really comes down to the fact that the Board of Elections has staff with the expertise and state mandated training to handle elections. Reitman said the town is willing to pay for the additional cost to the BOE to run its elections, and pointed out that Newborn taxpayers are also county taxpayers.

Town and Board of Elections officials met recently to discuss the concerns of both sides. Sheridan is on the agenda for the Board of Elections meeting at 2 p.m. Monday at the Newton County Administration Building.