May 20th – Is Turnout An Issue?

Consider this a way to start a discussion, as I have several anecdotes but don’t have time to look for data.

I’m told by a couple of folks that the early voting turnout in GA-11 is substantially below normal.   I’m also told it’s below similar percentages in GA-10 and GA-12, which also have contested GOP primaries.  Those districts too are not exactly burning up early voting percentages.

There’s a couple of factors in play.  We have an earlier primary than ever in Georgia, courtesy of a Federal Judge and a consent order agreed to by SOS Kemp (by the way, have you seen his website?).  Voters may not yet be ready to engage.

There’s also the number of candidates.   Major races have 4-5 viable candidates each.  Some like State School Super have…I can’t even remember.

There’s some thought that voters aren’t willing to engage until the numbers are pared down to a head to head decision.

If turnout is low, who does it help, and who does it hurt?  Does “voter intensity” matter more?  Or is this entire discussion baseless/invalid?  Discuss.


  1. blakeage80 says:

    I think the first primary this early makes this election simply data to be gathered. Give it a few cycles and then we’ll be able to apply some history and make predictions. This is one of the reasons that I am skeptical of most polls covering these races. I do think that voter engagement is lower because it is still so early. I know we’ll never be able to quantify it, but I wonder if some of the endorsements candidates have received, particularly Karen Handel, have had a bigger impact this time around because people haven’t gotten around to informing themselves yet. Her numbers really seemed to trend upward after her Sarah Palin endorsement.

  2. For the past 30 years I devoured every poll and monitored every statement uttered by every candidate… but like many folks, I have now become soured on politics and distrusting of all of the candidates… it’s all I can do to even vote. I voted advance and only cast a vote for Gov and CD 11… skipped all of the other contests.

    • Three Jack says:

      What Chuck wrote with a few more votes cast in other races but none for unopposed candidates.

      If turnout is low, blame lies with the 2 major parties and their candidates, not the voters. I don’t think it matters when the election takes place, voters have not been motivated by the candidates running. ‘Stop Obamacare’ and my opponent sucks is essentially the message put forth by pretty much all GOP candidates…woo hoo, let’s go vote!

  3. Jon Richards says:

    For what it’s worth, if turnout is as low as some think it will be, I think it will tend to help challenger candidates. In the Senate, that would be Paul Broun, whose supp0rters would make sure to cast their ballots even if it decided to snow next Tuesday.

    I think it would also help challengers to incumbents. In my Gwinnett County, we have two challengers to Senator Don Balfour and two challengers to House Education Chair Brooks Coleman. The voters who won’t show up are the less committed ones; the ones who would be more likely to voted for the incumbent as they reached the lower half of the ballot. and after they had voted for their preferred choice for Senator or Congressman. It might be just enough to force a runoff in one or both of these races.

    Of course, it’s all dependent on the specific race. Driving through the 7th House District as I am now, there are a ton of Ralston signs with a few sprinkles of Snider signs.

  4. northside101 says:

    It is hard to really differentiate most of the Senate (R) candidates—differences are nuances, minor stuff like whether one is “only” 98% pro-life (opposition to abortion except in cases of rape, incest and life of the mother) or “only” 99% (opposition except for life of the mother). Kingston may be the most vulnerable in the sense he has a long voting record (going on 22 years), thus Gingrey’s attack the other night on some beach renourishment vote of Kingston’s. Too many candidates to get much of a “gotcha” moment on stage in a debate. I can’t find any of them who don’t support repeal of Obamacare (though not surprisingly no one says that can’t happen as long as Obama is president), or who don’t support some form of tax reform, or who don’t support a balanced budget (so long as we don’t cut defense, interest on the debt or entitlements—basically we won’t touch 85% of the budget to get it balanced). So they are left to argue minor stuff that most voters glaze over. Gingrey’s latest ads that Perdue, Kingston and Handel are “too moderate” are just another sign of that (Isakson was accused of that in 2004 by Cain and Collins in the GOP primary—think we know who won that contest—of course the Georgia GOP electorate overall is not far to the right, but that may be a story for another day).

    The 2010 GOP primary turnout for governor was 680,499, with Handel getting 231,990 votes (34%), Deal getting 155,946 (23%), Eric Johnson 136,792 (20%), John Oxendine 115,421 (17%) and others (such as Jeff Chapman) 76,044 votes (6%). Notice that fewer than 20,000 votes separated Johnson and Deal from the second spot (Johnson in that race undoubtedly was hurt by Jeff Chapman, who got a lot of his votes in coastal Georgia in and near St. Simons, votes which otherwise Johnson likely would have gotten a lot of). Deal was helped by a strong showing in CD 9 (under the boundaries of that time, from Gainesville to northwest Georgia)—he got something like a quarter of his total primary votes just from that one district.

    In the 2012 GOP presidential primary, total votes cast came to 901,470, with Gingrich an easy first (425,395 votes, or 47%), followed by Romney in second (233,611 votes, or 26%), Santorum third at 176,259 votes (20%) and Ron Paul fourth (59,100 votes, 7%), with “also-rans” (like Michelle Bachmann) taking up the remaining 1%. From appearances so far, not likely the GOP turnout next week will reach that presidential year level.

    I suspect Kingston sees Perdue cutting into the former’s supposed South Georgia base, thus the attacks on Perdue by Kingston, such as supporting Common Core. The more votes Kingston gets below the Gnat Line, the fewer he needs in north Georgia to make the July runoff. I suspect too that Kingston (privately) hopes for a GOP runoff in his old district to help with turnout in the July runoff (battle between Buddy Carter, John McCallum, Jeff Chapman and so on for the Savannah to Valdosta 1st District).

    Also interesting to see is how many votes are cast on the Democratic side (primary), even with Michelle Nunn having token opposition.

  5. xdog says:

    Well, low turnout helps the candidate with the strongest base and the best GOTV organization. For the senate that has to be Kingston with Handel second.

    I don’t know what ‘normal’ early voting totals would be. Isn’t the early voting period shorter? (Thanks gop.) Plus, it’s a non-presidential year. Plus, kids are graduating and families are heading out of town.

    If next week we have low primary totals to explain, I’m ready to put a lot of the blame on the tpers. Their standard mixture of resentment and anger plus their rare ability to offend when they do win office has turned a lot of folks off, I believe. For example, given the Marlow/Trim burlesque in Cherokee I have trouble believing anyone up there is all that interested in politics right now. The tp won’t touch Ralston and Pennington is no threat to Deal. The energy and outrage is more isolated, a la Sam Moore, and btw, will he be re-elected? If the zealots and people offended by the zealots stay home that will really reduce voting totals.

    • Anyone But Chip says:

      “If the zealots and people offended by the zealots stay home that will really reduce voting totals.”

      Unfortunately I think the zealots will continue to vote and those offended by them will not. We will continue to elect more and more extreme candidates as their “success” in putting up unappetizing candidates who get elected continues. I think it will be quite telling in Cherokee whether the theater created by Marlow over the last two years has any impact on the four BOE elections in Cherokee. It’s my guess that at least one of her associates that are running will win their race suggesting that however motivated the community was to remove Marlow, they simply weren’t motivated enough to vote to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

    • thinkoutloud says:

      The in-person voting period is LONGER than the 2010 midterm. Voters have 21 days of early in-person voting plus a mandatory Saturday. That is in addition to 45 days of mailed balloting. (Ballots began to be mailed for this election on April 5)
      Not sure who you’re blaming… or for what?

  6. southernpol says:

    Conventional wisdom says it hurts people running on name ID alone — ala David Perdue & Bob Barr. But Perdue might be fine because he appears to be winning support of the older folks, who turn out the most. Barr is toast.

    It certainly helps Broun, that’s for sure. Not enough to win but he could finish a close 4th, maybe even 3rd.

  7. Lawton Sack says:

    This is just my personal experience, but the people I have spoken with in the know (politically involved) wanted to wait this year to see if (and when) some of the candidates did something stupid, since there were so many crowded races. Otherwise, people seem to be engaging early mainly due to local races and not the bigger races.

    I have always early voted since it was implemented, but I am waiting until Tuesday to see what comes out the next few days.

  8. John Konop says:

    I vote today and usually vote early…..I have never seen this dead……I was their around 8ish….I asked people at the place and many said it has been dead….never seen it this dead….

  9. Mrs. Adam Kornstein says:

    so, 168 years of voter suppression has nothing to do with it?

    But ultimately I blame the age of the perpetual campaign. No one ever stops running. There is no “off” political season and elected officials don’t govern off stage anymore. Couple that with more players on the field and it makes it that much worse.

    A case of market saturation.

    Movies about politics, TV shows about politics, political books, political podcasts, dedicated blogs, candidate & interest group commercials, robo calls, mail, targeted social media. If you stick your toe in even the shallow end of the pool it’s still like drinking from a fire hose..

    However normal people, come on you know who I mean.. not the freaks reading political blogs all day the “real americans” I believe are just “opting out” as it were. The louder we scream about it the quicker they will leave.

  10. Will Durant says:

    The pulse check I’ve done with my neighbors is barely detectable. Somewhere below apathy and above total disinterest. There is concern that City Hall will now have to install metal detectors and security personnel to keep people from packing heat to the council meetings. Other than that, most are jaded that anything on a higher level can be affected by their one vote. As long as money equals free speech and corporations are deemed to have the same Constitutional rights as the individual there is no competition. The younger they are the more jaded they are.

  11. Ellynn says:

    The school board race is the driving factor in my area. It’s not a party vote, so we will have all parts of the county involved. That being said, the turn out will still be low, but it will help Buddy Carter and Kingston, unless the negitive ads Bod Johnson is running against Buddy have staying power.

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