Georgia’s primary election is July 31, and early voting is already under way.
The ballot questions don’t carry the weight of law, but what voters say on these issues could prompt lawmakers into action during next year’s legislative session. The questions were chosen by party leaders from around the state during their annual conventions earlier this year.
Both parties are asking how voters feel about unlimited gifts from lobbyists to lawmakers, with the GOP ballot asking whether gifts should be capped at $100. The idea has been circulating in the Legislature, but lawmakers have lacked the political will to address the issue.
Georgia Tea Party Patriots state coordinator Debbie Dooley, a chief proponent of ethics reform, said the bipartisan attention to the issue shows that it is a priority among voters and could drive voter turnout in the primary.
Republican Party Chairwoman Sue Everhart said she has received the most inquiries about ethics and casino gambling. The latter issue has gained traction in recent years as lawmakers and others have questioned how to continue to fund the HOPE scholarship amid dwindling lottery funds.
On the abortion issue, Republican primary voters will be asked whether they would support a “right to life” amendment to the state Constitution.
Democratic Party Chairman Mike Berlon said his party’s questions were the result of collaboration between House and Senate Democratic leadership and the state party. In addition to ethics, Democratic voters will be asked their thoughts on charter schools, an income tax credit for home energy costs and a plan to reduce sales tax on Georgia-made goods.
“I’m not really sure how they’re going to come out,” Berlon said.
“We’re really interested in what the temperature is in the room with Democratic voters and how they feel about some of these issues. That gives us a pretty good idea about what the base is thinking and for us to set some policy moving forward.”
Berlon said the bipartisan interest in ethics should be a wake-up call for lawmakers.
“I think the vast majority of Georgians would be really interested in ethics reform,” he said. “That’s going to dictate to the Republicans in the Legislature what they really need to address.”