In Georgia, the political candidate who gets the most votes is not always the person who gets sworn into office.
Sometimes the candidate who got the least number of votes is the one who ultimately prevails.
A new bill in the Georgia General Assembly proposes to fix that.
State Rep. Houston Gaines (R-Athens) has filed a bill that, if enacted into law, addresses what to do when a candidate dies during a nonpartisan election.
“We had an issue in Athens-Clarke County last year where a candidate for county commission passed away just a couple of days before the election. He still received the majority of the votes in the election, but under current law in non-partisan races there is not an opportunity to fill that,” Gaines told members of a Special Committee on Election Integrity Thursday.
“Quite frankly, the law in our state is outdated. And because of that the candidate who received less votes was seated and now serves on the county commission. What this bill says is if a candidate in a non-partisan race passes away but still receives the requisite votes to be elected then there will be a special election to fill that seat.”
According to the language of the bill, the deceased candidate’s name would remain on the ballot. Election officials would vote count all votes for that candidate, regardless.
“If the deceased candidate receives the requisite number of votes to be elected, such contest shall be handled as a failure to fill the office,” according to the bill.
According to the Augusta-based WRDW, Georgia Supreme Court members addressed this issue last fall.
“The Georgia Supreme Court’s unanimous opinion upheld a lower court ruling that said votes cast for a candidate who died three days before the June election for a seat on the Athens-Clarke County Commission were not valid. Jerry NeSmith, who died on June 6, got the most votes,” the station reported.
“The county elections board declared his opponent Jesse Houle commissioner-elect, relying on Georgia law and state Supreme Court precedent saying all votes for NeSmith were void because of his death.”
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