The 2012 election season officially begins Wednesday as qualifying opens for candidates in the July 31 primary.
Qualifying for Columbia County races begins at 9 a.m. at the Columbia County Board of Elections office, in Building E of the government center at 500 Faircloth Drive.
Qualifying continues at 9 a.m. Thursday and from 9 a.m. until noon Friday, Columbia County Registration Coordinator Nancy Gay said.
Candidates for nonpartisan races file their paperwork directly with the Board of Elections, and the office closes at 5 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, Gay said.
“The partisan races have to qualify with their respective party,” Gay said, and while the Columbia County Republican and Democratic parties each plan to have representatives at the Board of Elections office during the qualifying period, candidates also can make arrangements to qualify with the parties during other hours until the noon Friday deadline, she added.
Positions for all Columbia County constitutional officers are up for election this year, including probate judge, clerk of superior court, sheriff, tax commissioner, coroner and chief magistrate.
All those positions require a party declaration.
With the exception of chief magistrate, all of the incumbents for those posts have indicated they intend to seek re-election. Chief Magistrate Bobby Christine, a lieutenant colonel in the Georgia Army National Guard, has been called up to active duty and is not seeking re-election.
Other partisan races up for election include the Districts 2 and 3 county commission posts.
Also up for election this year are nonpartisan races for school board chairman and Board of Education Districts 1 and 4.
All incumbents for those positions have indicated they intend to run, with the exception of District 1 School Board trustee Wayne Bridges, who has said he is not seeking re-election.
Depending on where they live, Columbia County voters also will vote July 31 in partisan elections for the seats for the redrawn District 10 or District 12 representatives for the U.S. House, along with the 23rd or 24th state Senate seats and 33rd, 121st, 122nd or 123rd District state House seats.
Candidates for those races file at the Secretary of State’s Office in Atlanta. All candidates for those posts have indicated they intend to seek re-election with the exception of Lee Anderson, of state House District 121, who is seeking the District 12 U.S. House seat.
Also qualifying in Atlanta are nonpartisan candidates for five of the Augusta Judicial Circuit’s eight superior court judge posts, with the elections held July 31 during the primary, and the partisan district attorney’s post, which is elected in November from candidates selected during the July primary. The circuit includes Columbia, Richmond and Burke counties.
Qualifying fees, set by state law, range from $5,220 for a congressional seat to $2,424 for sheriff to $195 for a county commission or school board post, and must be paid at qualifying.
July 2 is the deadline to register to vote in the July 31 primary.
For qualifying information, prospective candidates can call the Columbia County Board of Elections office at (706) 868-3355, or the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office at (404) 656-2871.