A taxpayer filed a complaint alleging that a special election was improper because the county board of registrations and elections had failed to comply with statutory procedures concerning the issuance of a call for the election, and had failed to enter an appropriate resolution upon its minutes. 1
1. The circumstances of the case are:
(a) The county commissioners voted to conduct a referendum concerning the imposition of a special sales tax. 2
(b) Given the time and circumstances of that action, the only lawful date for the holding of the election was November 5, 1991. 3
(d) The board did not meet between the time that the commissioners authorized the election and the time that its supervisor transmitted the call for the election.
2. The trial court voided the special election, and enjoined collection of the tax, on the following ground:
Since the Board did not at any time between October 1, 1991, and October 6, 1991, act by resolution entered [in] its minutes to cause an election to be held, the election of November 5, 1991, was never called and is, therefore, a nullity.
3. (a) The election was not void. There was no failure to exercise any discretionary act on the part of the board of elections, or of its supervisor. The resolution of the county commissioners made it certain that the election would be held on November 5, 1991. The issuance of the call by the supervisor was a perfunctory act, and one made according to a valid prior authorization.
(b) The failure on the part of a public officer to perform an incidental function that is purely mechanistic should not invalidate an expression of the will of the people that is regular in other respects.
"Questions affecting the purity of elections are in this country of vital importance. Upon them hangs the experiment of self-government. The problem is to secure, first, to the voter a free, untrammeled vote; and secondly, a correct record and return of the vote. It is mainly with reference to these two results that the rules for conducting elections are prescribed by the legislative power. But these rules are only means. The end is the freedom and purity of the election. To hold these rules all mandatory, and essential to a vital election, is to subordinate substance to form, the end to the means. . . ." [Cit.] [ Coleman v. Bd. of Education, 131 Ga. 643, 655-656 (63 SE 41) (1908).]
The judgment of the trial court must be reversed. 5
Michael J. Bowers, Attorney General, David A. Runnion, Daniel M. Formby, Senior Assistant Attorneys General, Alston & Bird, G. Conley Ingram, Donna P. Bergeson, Matthew H. Triggs, T. Michael Tennant, amici curiae.