In Georgia, easier ballot access, but with conditions

In Georgia, easier ballot access, but with conditions

Among the topics that the Georgia General Assembly may deal with this year is whether to make it easier for additional parties to get on the general election ballot.  Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians are entitled to appear on Georgia ballots.  Other parties, including the Green Party, have never amassed the number of signatures to get on the Georgia ballot.  The last example of a fourth entry on a Georgia ballot stemmed from Ross Perot’s 1992 presidential candidacies in 1992 and 1996. The argument in favor of facilitating the appearance of additional parties on the ballot is that it would expand the choices available to voters.  Having a wider range of candidates competing in the general election might result in discussion of otherwise overlooked policy alternatives. Making it easier for candidates who identify as Greens, Socialist Workers, Independents or something else to appear on Georgia ballots would not likely see these individuals register much greater success than Libertarians who hold no public offices.  So from the perspective of whether easier access would result in greater partisan diversity in the General Assembly or Georgia’s congressional delegation, the answer is negative.  Without other structural changes and a massive reorientation of voter preferences, any idea that the General Assembly could have the variety of parties found in nations like Belgium, Israel, or even Germany is far-fetched.  Therefore why not embrace the proposed change? The legislature should hesitate to change the ballot access requirement without thinking through how the state’s unique election requirement might cause problems.  Only Georgia requires that legislators, federal officials, statewide officers and even county officials win general elections with a...
The Top-of-the-Card Democratic Bout: Abrams vs. Evans

The Top-of-the-Card Democratic Bout: Abrams vs. Evans

Many voters find it very easy to make choices in the November general election. All that strong partisans need do is find their party’s candidates and vote for them. It is harder in a primary since all of the candidates belong to the same party. Who is the best choice? Voters could read the candidates’ platforms, watch debates, attend nearby political events and listen to the candidates. But any of these would take time. Even reading the platforms might not be that illuminating since as members of the same party, there may be only nuanced differences in candidate stands on many issues. Candidates realize that most voters will not make a major investment to discern policy differences so campaigns provide easy cues that may influence voter choices. Candidates list the schools they attended, their religious activities, stress their military service when appropriate and identify social groups to which they belong. They may take pains to have the family dog in the family photo that graces mail outs. Voters who see little difference in primary opponents will often vote for the candidate with whom they share a tie identified through the campaign literature. The tendency for voters to gravitate toward candidates with whom they share ties is likely to be the decisive factor in this year’s Democratic gubernatorial primary. Both of the women, Stacey Abrams and Stacey Evans, have served in the state House. Both are attorneys. Both have inspirational personal stories as their success has been largely self-made with achievements beyond those of their parents. Race is an obvious dimension on which the two differ and that may determine...
What Do We Learn from the Georgia 6th District Result?

What Do We Learn from the Georgia 6th District Result?

By Charles S. Bullock – There are some things that even $30 million can’t buy.  Expenditures in that range failed to secure victory for Democrats in the special election to fill Tom Price’s congressional seat.  The millions spent between the April primary and the June 20 second round had no impact on the outcome.  In April the eleven Republicans got a combined total of 51% while the five Democrats’ vote share totaled 49%.  Democrat Jon Ossoff had a large lead in the first round with 48.1%.  Nine weeks, tens of millions of dollars and untold numbers of mail-outs, TV ads and door-knocks, Ossoff won 48.1% of the vote on June 20. Ossoff’s defeat is the latest in a series of near misses for Democrats attempting to use special elections to make gains in Republican areas.  The close losses may indicate something about the popularity of the president but there could be a more general explanation for why districts that had been securely Republican for years turned competitive in 2017.  The critical change element may be the absence of an incumbent and not the presence of Donald Trump.  Invariably the party that has held a seat does less well when it must replace the incumbent.  Incumbent name recognition, federal dollars showered on the district, and help given constituents accumulates support for the incumbent above what the party label alone would attract.  The departure of the incumbent results in a retirement slump as the former incumbent’s party gets a smaller share of the vote than in the past just as has occurred in the recent special elections. Some will see in...
The Irony of Hillary’s Firewall

The Irony of Hillary’s Firewall

By Charles S. Bullock, III – The descent has been less spectacular than that experienced by Jeb Bush, but Hillary Clinton has gone from heir apparent to street scrapper fighting desperately to claim what she thought to be her birthright. A photo finish in Iowa followed by a blowout loss in New Hampshire and a 5-point win in Nevada have made the South, where her 2008 bid dissolved, the 2016 firewall. As everyone acknowledges, the heavily white electorates of the first two states along the path to the presidential nomination do not mirror the nation’s growing diversity. Party leaders gave South Carolina favored status so that Democratic presidential candidates must demonstrate an ability to connect with African Americans. The Palmetto State’s neighbors have often sought to enjoy some of the attention accorded frontloaded states by scheduling their primaries in the shadow of the South Carolina vote. In 2016 this effort has taken the form of the SEC Primary, an idea of Georgia’s secretary of state Brian Kemp. Just three days after South Carolina Democrats go to the polls, Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia will choose between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. The Clinton camp hopes that the African American voters in the South who flocked to the Obama banner in 2008 and accelerated Hillary’s downward slide will become her savior this year. Black leaders like Rep. John Lewis who defected to Obama in 2008 have returned like prodigal sons and now boost Clinton’s efforts. African Americans cast disproportionate shares of the votes in southern Democratic primaries. If united, this component of the electorate determines the nominee...
African-Americans: Bulwark of the Southern Democratic Primaries

African-Americans: Bulwark of the Southern Democratic Primaries

By Charles Bullock & Mark Rozell – As Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders enter the next stage of the nomination contest locked in a tight battle, much is being made of the role of African-American voters on the eventual outcome. To be clear, African-Americans will dominate the Democratic primaries in critical southern states and if the nomination gets decided in early March Black voters will play the decisive role. Conventional wisdom holds that Clinton has a distinctive advantage with Black voters. If that is correct, a look at the dynamics of two critical states – South Carolina and Georgia – shows how central African-Americans are to Clinton’s nomination chances. South Carolina, the first southern state to vote, holds the next primary. In 2008, the most recent competitive presidential primary for Democrats, non-White voters vastly outnumbered White voters 291,317 to 225,536. Despite having held strong early leads in polls in the state, Clinton lost the primary by more than a 2-1 margin to Barack Obama. Perhaps more than any other contest that year, the South Carolina primary showcased the significance of the racial factor. Clinton had been an early favorite among some Black leaders but the Obama bounce after Iowa followed by overheated attacks on his candidacy in South Carolina by former president Bill Clinton mobilized Black voters for the eventual party nominee. Obama took 78% of African-American votes. Clinton never recovered Black support and Obama rode strong African-American turnouts to nomination and general election victory. Palmetto State primaries have become more heavily non-White since that historic contest. In the 2012 regular Democratic primary, non-Whites cast 70,374...