The Newnan Times-Herald


Primary ballots include opinion questions

  • By Sarah Fay Campbell
  • |
  • May. 27, 2020 - 9:07 PM

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Coweta voters, and those around the state, who choose either a Republican or Democratic primary ballot will see more than candidates – and a lot of uncontested races – on the June 9 ballot.

Both the Democratic and Republican parties have added statewide ballot questions to gauge voter’s opinions on a variety of topics.

Ballot questions are commonly added to primary ballots, and in some years the local parties place them on the ballot – if there is space. However, there are no local questions this year. Voters who choose a nonpartisan ballot will not see questions. The Republican and Democratic ballots include party primaries as well as all nonpartisan races.

On the Republican side, these are the first statewide ballot questions in eight years, said Brant Frost V, chairman of the Coweta County Republican Party.

The three Republican Party questions are:

1. Should Georgia lawmakers expand educational options by allowing a student’s state education dollars to follow to the school that best fits their needs, whether that is public, private, magnet, charter, virtual or homeschool?

2. Should voting in the Republican primary be limited to voters who have registered as Republicans?

3. Should candidates for board of education be required to declare their political party?

The five Democratic Party questions are:

1. Should Georgians work to stop climate change and listen to the scientific community, which recommends immediate action to combat this serious threat to our planet?

2. Should Georgia enact basic standards to protect our environment from wasteful plastic items that pollute our state?

3. Should every eligible Georgian be allowed to register to vote on Election Day to make sure everyone can exercise their right to vote?

4. Should Georgia take partisanship out of the redistricting process and have an independent commission draw district lines instead of politicians?

5. Should our criminal justice system end the discriminatory cash bail system that allows the wealthy to buy their way out of jail while disadvantaging lower-income Georgians?

There were a few other questions being considered for the Republican ballot, Frost said. State party leadership voted on which ones to include.

Frost said the local party didn’t know how many state questions there would be or how much room would be on the ballot, so the decision was made not to include any local questions. The local party has placed several questions on the ballot and “we’ve covered most of the ground that was there to be covered,” he said.

After the election, the results of the ballot questions will be summarized on the state and local levels.

Brant thinks questions 2 and 3 will be particularly fascinating. In Georgia, there is no registration by party, and voters can freely choose between Democratic and Republican primary elections.

“A lot of people tell me all the time ‘I’m a registered Republican,’” Frost said – even though there is no such thing in Georgia. He thinks some of that misconception may be because people are transplants from other states where there is party registration.

Native Georgians are more likely to “be cool to this idea” of party registration, Frost said, because they are used to being able to vote one party in the primary and another party in the general election.

The state party placed a similar question on the ballot in 2012, and the results were 47 percent in favor and 53 percent opposed.

As for school board elections, those are locally controlled, and about half the state – including Coweta – has nonpartisan school boards, Frost said.

He said most of the people he’s talked to who are opposed to closing primaries are in favor of making school board candidates declare their party. The change could be made in two ways – becoming truly partisan races with party primaries and a general election, or keeping the race nonpartisan but having candidates declare their party, he said.

One argument for asking candidates to declare their party affiliation is that it helps voters know more about the candidate, he said.

“Voters have very little time to reach candidates … knowing which party the candidate sides with is a very helpful, key part of determining who a voter would want to support,” Frost said.

Both parties use the results of the ballot questions to determine priorities and lobby for changes.

“The Democratic Party questions are about protecting future generations from destructive greed and protecting Georgians’ voices in government,” said Coweta Democratic Party Chairman Chuck Enderlin. “Without a healthy environment, there is no Georgia, and without voting rights there is no democracy.”

“It’s clear Democratic leaders care about Georgians and their future,” Enderlin said.