Chatham County Attorney
When determining the results of voting for a consolidated government, the term "county," as used in O.C.G.A. § 36-60-16, means the whole county not just the unincorporated portion thereof.
You have requested a legal opinion regarding the meaning of "county" when determining the results of voting for a consolidated government. By this inquiry, you suggest there may be authority to permit separate approval by the voters in Savannah and by the voters residing in the unincorporated area of Chatham County.
The Georgia Constitution requires approval by a majority of qualified voters of the entire county and of each municipality containing at least ten percent of the county population. Ga. Const. 1983, Art. IX, Sec. III, Para. II. Official Code of Georgia Annotated § 36-60-16 specifically provides that separate approval must be obtained "in each affected county or counties" and in each affected municipality containing at least ten percent of the population of the county participating in the consolidation. Additionally, no municipality containing less than ten percent of the county population shall be included in the county consolidation "unless such consolidation is separately approved by a majority of the qualified voters voting in a referendum thereof in such municipality."
You suggest that O.C.G.A. § 36-60-16 may support an interpretation to permit separate approval by only a majority of voters residing in the unincorporated area of Chatham County rather than the county as a whole. I do not believe that there is legal support to impose such a majority requirement. It is, therefore, my unofficial opinion that county as used in O.C.G.A. § 36-60-16 means the whole county not just the unincorporated portion thereof.
STEPHANIE B. MANIS
Senior Assistant Attorney General