Georgia Senate Approves New State Primary Date

Jan 14, 2014

Georgia is one step closer to holding the earliest state and local primary elections in its history. The Georgia Senate today passed a bill today to move state and local primary elections from mid-July to May 20.  The legislation also moves primary runoffs from early August to July 22.

Senators approved the measure 38 to 15. The passage comes after a federal judge ordered the state move its federal primary from July to May 20 to give overseas and military voters enough time to submit their absentee ballots.

Republican Caucus Chair Butch Miller of Gainesville said the move was needed to comply with the judge’s ruling.

“This is in direct response to the federal ruling, and it’s keeping Georgia in line with the federal government, and we are following the rules explicitly and to the letter.”

Democratic Senator Curt Thompson of Tucker spoke against the bill.

Curt Thompson (D-Tucker) argues against legislation to move state and local primaries to May 20.
Credit Michelle Wirth/WABE News

Thompson argued the new primary date, which falls in the middle of the summer, will give incumbent lawmakers an unfair advantage. Thompson said state lawmakers could have come up with another plan.

“We’re doing the system that is the least small ‘D’ democratic. It’s wrong, and we should be voting against that. We should be coming up with a bill that we take and present to the court…that I’m absolutely sure they will accept because they have accepted it in other states.”

Thompson says some other states have addressed the issue by allowing military and overseas voters to send in their ballots after printing them electronically. He said other solutions include having an automatic second ballot or moving the primary to the fall.

The new May primary date is expected to increase voter turnout. Some political analysts say it could dilute the voting power of ultra conservative activists and Tea Party members who vote no matter when the elections are scheduled.  The bill now heads to the House.