Parties take pulse of Georgia voters on guns, gambling and election laws

Policy questions on the Democratic and Republican ballots asked Georgia voters their opinions on guns, elections, gambling and taxes during Tueday's primary election. (Miguel Martinez / AJC)

Credit: Miguel Martinez/AJC

Credit: Miguel Martinez/AJC

Policy questions on the Democratic and Republican ballots asked Georgia voters their opinions on guns, elections, gambling and taxes during Tueday's primary election. (Miguel Martinez / AJC)

Georgia Democrats and Republicans expressed their opinions on guns, elections and a host of other issues during Tuesday’s primary election.

Democratic primary voters favored banning assault weapons, creating incentives for clean energy and allowing same-day voter registration, among other issues. Republicans supported moving to elections with hand-marked paper ballots, holding closed party primary elections and conducting a statewide vote on whether to allow legal gambling in Georgia.

Tuesday’s results do not enact any of the policies in question, and they’re not necessarily a sign of widespread support among Georgia voters. But they do offer a glimpse of the parties’ priorities — and perhaps a sneak peek at proposals that could be floated in the General Assembly as soon as next year.

Each election year the Democratic and Republican parties use Georgia’s primary elections to take the pulse of their voters on a variety of issues. On Tuesday each party asked voters to weigh in on eight questions.

The results offer a glimpse of each party’s priorities — and both are thinking about elections. The results are usually predictable, based on each party’s platform.

Democrats supported moves to “expand voter access by allowing same-day voter registration, removing obstacles to voting by mail and making secure ballot drop boxes accessible at all times through Election Day.”

The Republican-controlled Legislature limited the use of ballot drop boxes in 2021 after GOP President Donald Trump claimed he lost his reelection bid because of voting fraud. Three vote counts — two by machine and one by hand — showed Democrat Joe Biden beat Trump, and numerous investigations found no evidence of problems significant enough to affect the outcome.

Meanwhile, Republicans used four of their questions for election-related issues — a reflection of the party’s concerns about election security fueled by Trump.

Republican primary voters supported “hand marked paper ballots, scanned and verified by hand count on live stream video.” They also favored closed primaries where only registered Republicans could cast a Republican ballot — by law Georgians do not register by party.

They also want to require that voters renew their registration every four years because “hundreds of thousands of hours and dollars are spent every year cleaning up voter rolls,” and they want to ban registered lobbyists from serving on the State Election Board. A board member and lobbyist, Ed Lindsey, drew criticism from some Republicans for supporting Georgia’s law allowing no-excuse absentee voting. He recently resigned from the board.

In other issues, Democrats favored laws banning assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, closing background check loopholes and other “common-sense gun safety reforms.” They supported incentives for clean energy production, repealing Georgia’s current abortion law, raising the minimum wage and ending public funding of private school vouchers.

Republican primary voters favored replacing the state income tax with a consumption tax, requiring public officials “who allow illegal migration to occur to be held responsible for crimes committed by illegal aliens” and holding a statewide referendum to allow “gaming.”

With Republicans in charge of state government, GOP proposals for new election laws and legal gambling have become staples of each legislative session.

However, the whole process of ballot questions in the primary drew criticism from some Georgians who wondered what purpose they serve.

“I was embarrassed to have to weigh through the stupid #gagop questions on the ballot,” former Georgia Senate leader and Republican gubernatorial hopeful Eric Johnson tweeted. “40 years ago, it was a way to try to get voters to vote in our primary. It is unnecessary now. Please stop!”