Justice Department Pre-Clears Anti-Incumbent Change

August 30, 2011 13:07 pm

by Chris Huttman · 2 comments

The other day Galloway noted some pre-clearance activity for a few voting changes here in Georgia.  The most newsworthy allows our Secretary of State to wait until the last minute to pick a Presidential primary date in order to maximize Georgia’s influence in selecting Obama’s challenger.  Less discussed is HB 92, which attempts to standardize the early voting window for primaries and generals.  It does this by shortening the period from the current 45 day period to 21 days, and also adds a standardized Saturday voting option which some metro counties experimented with last year to much success (for Democrats at least).

As a Democrat, my first instinct was to suspect the motives of the shorter period, as my bias is going to be in favor of making voting easier, not harder.  Sorry that’s where I come from.  It’s important to remember two things though – one is that the 45 day period was a relatively new invention and so from a pre-clearance perspective at least, having a 21 day period instead isn’t a huge change (it’s still way better than just 1 day).  But more importantly, the data shows that about 80% of the early voting was actually happening in the 21 day window anyway and if you have a hard time voting during the working week more Mondays-Fridays aren’t helpful anyway, but Saturday might be.

All of that aside, the real benefit (for Democrats) of the shorter voting period is that incumbents have less time to lock in votes before the voters learn negative information about the incumbent or positive information about the challenger.  In their quest for super-majority status, Republicans have drawn a lot of very competitive districts in places like Gwinnett County.  Districts where, if they are to achieve their super majority they’ll have to win some of these places 51-49.  Less than 10% of the final electorate voted in that 45-22 day window, but you have to think that at least some of those voters would have voted differently on day 45 than they now will on day 21 because of some new piece of information they’ve learned.  A Democratic challenger will by definition be underfunded in this state and likely doesn’t have the budget to start mailing/calling/advertising/knocking when it’s T-minus 45, but much more likely to have begun by 3 weeks out.

In a state where it’s usually pro-incumbent all the time, it’s nice to see legislation like this slip through, no matter the original intent.

Buzz Brockway August 30, 2011 at 6:58 pm

It’s great to see you over think this bill Chris. ;)

SallyForth August 30, 2011 at 8:58 pm

The scary part of the Obama DOJ approving all these Repub-engineered changes to GA election laws is that it seems to be setting a precedence. Let’s just hope they don’t so readily approve the mash-up of redistricting that’s getting ready to head to Washington for review….

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