The bill was actually approved by the House March 4 during last year's session but was amended this year to include the election information. It was approved by the Senate Tuesday and by the House Friday.
In July U.S. District Court Judge Steve Jones of North Georgia ruled to shift the state’s 2014 election calendar to comply with the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, which was approved by Congress in 2009. The act was passed to give U.S. residents living overseas 45 days to fill out and mail their absentee ballots, and the U.S. Justice Department in June 2012 sued Georgia for non-compliance of the law. The state’s primary election is now set for May 20 and its primary runoff will be July 22.
District 52 State Rep. Joe Wilkinson, R-Sandy Springs, the only sponsor of HB 310, said he, Secretary of State Brian Kemp and county commissioners have been working on the bill since the judge’s ruling last summer.
“We can’t afford two [sets of] elections,” Wilkinson said. “… Three weeks is just not enough time for the military, particularly those in war zones, to get their ballots back.”
Wilkinson said in future elections Georgia may join other states in having electronic voting for absentee ballots, but it’s not yet ready for that step.
HB 310 bill also included technical language regarding the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission. With the primary election now earlier, Wilkinson’s bill added a March 31 campaign finance reporting requirement. Without it, political candidates would not have had to file disclosure reports except Jan. 31 and June 30, the latter coming after the primary election. The bill also allows municipalities to give only 60 days’ notice to announce special local option sales tax votes instead of the previous 90-day requirement.
“It’s my intention in the future to go back to 90 days but it was to accommodate them for this cycle,” Wilkinson said.