Republicans open the door to controversy with ballot questions

ATLANTA — Casinos, ethics and abortion spice up the nonbinding questions Republican voters will see on this month’s primary ballots.

Rounding out the list are party registration and gun permits for young soldiers, sailors and airmen.

Gov. Nathan Deal, who has already said he doesn’t support casinos, may not be eager to see a lot of support for the first question, which would allow them to fund education. And the House leadership has dismissed as a gimmick the ethics question about limiting lobbyists’ gifts to legislators.

Republican Chairwoman Sue Everhart said she wasn’t trying to push an agenda with the questions she asked the party’s executive committee to put on the ballot, only forward queries she got from rank-and-file members recently.

“These questions kept popping up, and people kept saying ‘we need to do this’ and ‘why don’t you do it?’” she said. “... It was not to force their hand on anything, at least it was not the intention of me or the committee. ... I didn’t think of it as embarrassment. I don’t think any of us did.”

Inclusion of the casino question did win the party praise from an unlikely corner – the head of the Democratic Party of Georgia.

“It’s a challenging question, and I frankly give them some credit for putting it on there,” said Mike Berlon.

One developer has already made public a proposal for a venue with a collection of video terminals playing instant games from the Georgia Lottery. Dan O’Leary has spoken out against the ballot question because he says his plan isn’t for a casino.

“It is a flawed question and does not accurately ask voters about our project,” he said.

If the question fails to win a majority, Everhart says that should be the end of the issue, which has been kicked around in recent years. O’Leary may fear the same thing.

Everhart herself has come out against one of the questions she put on the ballot. She opposes having voters register by party.

Such registration, as is the norm in many states, does prevent independents and members of opposing parties from skewing primaries by trying to pick the weakest nominee, notes University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock. But registration also could frustrate voters who live in a part of the state dominated by the opposite party, keeping them from having a say in the election of many offices.

“In many Georgia counties, the candidates have no opposition in November,” he said.

The question about a weapons permit for younger members of the military follows discussion from the last session of the General Assembly, where a similar bill stalled in committee.

Supporters say that anyone who has received military training on how to use weapons is qualified to carry a concealed handgun or lethal knife. Opponents argued that safe weapons handling in a supervised battlefield or training area is not the same as allowing immature young adults to have them in personal settings.

REPUBLICAN BALLOT QUESTIONS

Here are the nonbinding questions Republican primary voters will have a say on this month:

1. Should Georgia have casino gambling with funds going to education?

2. Do you support ending the current practice of unlimited gifts from lobbyists to state legislators by imposing a $100 cap on such gifts?

3. Should active duty military personnel who are under the age of 21 be allowed to obtain a Georgia weapons license?

4. Should Citizens who wish to vote in a primary election be required to register by their political party affiliation at least thirty days prior to such primary election?

5. Should the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to provide that the paramount right to life is vested in each innocent human being from his or her earliest biological beginning without regard to age, race, sex, health, function, or condition of dependency?


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