On Friday morning, the five-member board chose not to contest a legal challenge to the March 6 referendum that was brought by two people who live in Cobb cities last week.
It falls to a Superior Court judge to determine whether a revote will take place and when.
“Hopefully the judge will make a decision to put this on the ballot on July 31st,” when voters will already be casting ballots on the Transportation Investment Act referendum, said Beverly Smith, who chairs the Board of Elections. “This will save the taxpayers some money.”
The county’s referendum asked voters whether to allow Sunday sales of packaged liquor in unincorporated Cobb. But the county attorney, Dorothy Bishop, told Elections Director Janine Eveler that only residents who live in unincorporated Cobb should vote on the question, not voters who live in one of the six cities. Residents of the cities pay county taxes and are governed by the county as well as their city, and so have the right to vote on county-related questions, according to the challenge. County Chairman Tim Lee has said that if voters approve the referendum on July 31, it will take effect as soon as possible, perhaps as early as Aug. 1.
One of the people to file suit, former state Rep. Roger Hines of Acworth, said he appreciates the board’s decision.
“All I did was exercise the right to petition, which is something our wonderful legal system allows, and I’m just happy they ruled as they did,” Hines said.
Lee said he believed the board made the right decision as well.
“The most important component of what happened was to maintain confidence in the election process, and I’m pleased at the results,” Lee said.
Lee said he wasn’t aware of another county in Georgia that had the same problem with the election as Cobb did.
“I was embarrassed for the county that the mishap occurred.” Lee said. “I will be doing a review of what occurred to ensure that in the future we don’t duplicate the mistake.”
The board met for about 45 minutes in executive session before coming out to vote not to contest the lawsuit. In addition to Smith, board members include Rob Garcia, Patrick Gartland, Joe Ransbotham and Guy Drexinger.
Gregg Litchfield, attorney for the elections boards, said that while there were some doubts in his mind about the lawsuit, it was better not to contest the challenge rather than risk prolonging the decision and ending up having to hold a costly special election.
Hines’ attorney, Justin O’Dell of the Marietta firm Cauthorn Nohr & O’Dell, said the next step is for a consent order to be presented to a Superior Court judge.
“That consent order will nullify the results of the March 6 referendum on Cobb Sunday sales and order that a new election be held on July 31,” O’Dell said.
The matter has no bearing on the green light voters in Cobb’s six cities gave to Sunday sales at different times on March 6 and last November.