One Man’s Opinion: Primarily Speaking

It’s the most common refrain I hear from voters...”I don’t like my choices.” Most typically these words are heard during Presidential election years, but increasingly, like these never-ending election seasons themselves, this message is becoming a near-constant.

Well, IF you don’t like the two major-party nominees in front of you... NOW is your time to actually DO something about that. Georgia began administering General Primary Election contests, and frequently the Runoff Elections which follow, during the 1960s and after the passage of the Voting Rights Act. The Democratic Party moved first, and in those days there were not a lot of elected Republican officials in Georgia. General Primary Elections replaced State Conventions as the nominating vehicle, just as Presidential Preference Primaries and Caucuses would eventually make the National Political Conventions into an often drama-free and nearly week-long TV commercial for each respective party. Primary elections involve the greater electorate, versus decisions being made by party bosses in the then-proverbial smoke-filled rooms.

In more recent years, each party has increasingly played to their respective base, as Primary turnouts are predictably and most often less than HALF the voter turnout of the General Election contests. Even in a state like Georgia, with 95 percent voter registration among those of voting age, General Primary Election turnout will likely hover between 25-33 percent, with variances driven at the county level by hot local contests.

And in the current cycle, GOP ballots are out-drawing Democratic ballots as the ticket-topping nominations for Governor and U.S. Senator are already decided on the Democratic side. So in each party, up and down the ticket, candidates tend to target and attempt to turn out their most active and ardent members...which means each party in effect also plays to the extreme and more emotional issues on their respective agendas. This results in neither party speaking to non-partisan, unaligned voters and independents, the fastest-growing percentage of the electorate, until the General Election contests in the fall, which typically gear up after Labor Day.

This also results, in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere in office-holders locked into voter promises and party positions taken during Primary contests, which they must either choose to wear and abide by, or risk being censured, abandoned, or called a turncoat by their own party loyalists once IN office. Obviously, this also feeds the party-line votes and gridlock which now dominate our U.S. Congress, and increasingly are also dropping down into state and local election contests.

This fall is a Presidential mid-term election cycle. All of the U.S. House is up for election/re-election, and one-third of the U.S. Senate. Typically the party controlling the White House loses a substantial number of seats during these Mid-Term contests. Polling and census shifts of Congressional seats into several red states would indicate a less than bountiful forecast for Team Blue. And yet, a recently leaked U.S. Supreme Court decision first draft, potentially overturning Roe v. Wade, and partisan in-fighting on the GOP side in multiple states, led by former President Donald J. Trump are combining to recalibrate those odds.

We are in the final week of Advance Voting in Georgia. A new requirement of voter identification along with no-excuse Absentee Voting, and Drop Boxes being moved inside with enhanced security, are bringing down Absentee Voting percentages back in line with historic averages (10-15% of ballots). The deadline for mailing an Absentee Ballot Application has now passed, though Absentee Ballots themselves may be hand-delivered or mailed and received up through 7 p.m. on Election Day.

Democrats now have a new fall rallying cry. Republicans must overcome their own circular firing squad and unify behind party nominees, in Georgia and other states, or risk becoming the minority party in many states where they have long been dominant. Runoff election contests will somewhat delay that Kumbaya moment, but if results follow polling trends, President Trump’s endorsement slate will be likely coming up short, and in many states, Team Red will need to select their new ‘coach’ for the fall contests.

As we look ahead to Memorial Day in just a few more weeks, I am reminded that not only is Freedom not Free, but millions of Americans and Georgians, even with record Advance Voter turnout, are still apparently planning to sit out this General Primary Election, and primarily speaking, if you don’t vote now, don’t expect me to give much heed to your voice and lack of choices this fall. You can’t win if you don’t enter.

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