“I presented House Bill 87 to the House Governmental Affairs Elections subcommittee Monday and it passed unanimously,” Hightower said. “I’ll present the bill to the full House Governmental Affairs Committee tomorrow (Thursday) at 3 p.m.”
Hightower said if the bill passes the full committee, it will be sent to the Rules Committee, where he will ask that it be sent to the House floor for a vote. Once approved by the House, it will need to be passed by the Senate and then signed by Gov. Nathan Deal.
The legislation would allow the boundaries of a gated community to serve as precinct boundaries. The bill stipulates that the gates must be kept open for public access, by voters and election workers, throughout election day.
Co-sponsors of the legislation include District 18 Rep. Kevin Cooke, R-Carrollton; District 69 Rep. Randy Nix, R-LaGrange; District 70 Rep. Lynn Smith, R-Newnan; District 171 Rep. Jay Powell, R-Camilla; and District 3 Rep. Tom Weldon, R-Ringgold.
“During my campaign, I made a commitment to the voters of Fairfield to do all that I could to help save their voting precinct,” Hightower said last month after introducing the bill. “By submitting this legislation, I’m keeping my word and trying to fulfill that commitment. During this time, when voter apathy is at an all time high, we don’t need to put further obstacles in the way of our voters.
A similar bill was introduced by Rep. Lynn Smith during the 2004 legislative session, and the bill passed the House with a vote of 154-4, according to Hightower.
“However, the 2004 legislative session, which was only 40 days, came to an end before the bill could make it to the Senate floor for a vote,” he added.
Residents of Fairfield Plantation, located in the Sandhill community between Carrollton and Villa Rica, became concerned last February about losing their precinct. County Elections Supervisor Becky Deese announced at that time that Fairfield was on a list of nine precincts that the county was considering closing in a cost saving measure. Under the proposal, Fairfield voters would have been split between two other nearby precincts, Hulett and Sandhill, both outside the community gates.
After a public meeting last summer at Fairfield, attended by hundreds of residents, Deese announced she would take no further actions to close the precinct, if the state law could be changed so that the gated community would meet legal requirements for precinct boundaries. The current law doesn’t allow gated community boundaries to be precinct boundaries. House Bill 87 would make those required changes.