The Jolt: Data shows thousands of Democrats voting in GOP primary
News and information from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Credit: John Spink / AJC
Credit: John Spink / AJC
May 2, 2022 Atlanta: Voters gathered at the Buckhead Library located at 269 Buckhead Ave NE in Atlanta for early voting on Monday May 2, 2022. Three weeks of early voting began Monday for voters who want to cast their ballots in the Georgia primary before election day on May 24. In-person early voting is usually the most popular way of participating in Georgia elections, providing at least 17 days when voters can pick a time that fits their schedule. About 54% of voters cast ballots in advance during the 2020 presidential election. The primary includes races for Georgia governor, the U.S. Senate, statewide offices and the General Assembly. Early voting locations, hours and sample ballots are available online on the stateÕs My Voter Page at mvp.sos.ga.gov. The primary might be the first time many voters go to the polls since the General Assembly passed GeorgiaÕs new voting law in March 2021, though some cities held local elections in the fall. Changes to voting laws affect early voting in several ways. The minimum early voting hours are set at 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and counties can offer up to 12 hours of daily early voting, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. In previous elections, early voting times were required Òduring normal business hours,Ó but those hours werenÕt defined. Early voting will also be offered on two Saturdays, and local election offices have the option of providing voting hours on two Sundays as well. Before the law, one Saturday of early voting was required. Early voting is available from May 2 to May 20. All voters also have the option of casting absentee ballots in advance of election day, but the rules have changed. Under GeorgiaÕs voting law, voters can no longer request an absentee ballot online without signing a paper form, meaning theyÕll need access to a printer in most circumstances. A driverÕs license or other form of ID is also required. The stateÕs new absentee ballot request website is securemyabsenteeballot.sos.ga.gov.
The deadline to request an absentee ballot is now 11 days before election day, on May 13 for the primary, and completed ballots must be received at local election offices before polls close. Voters can return absentee ballots through the mail or in drop boxes, but fewer ballot drop boxes are available this year, and there wonÕt be an option during the final days of the election. GeorgiaÕs voting law prohibits drop boxes from being used except during early voting hours, and they can only be located inside early voting locations. The number of drop boxes in each county is capped at one for every 100,000 active voters or the number of early voting locations, whichever is lower. Every county must install at least one drop box. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)
Are a significant number of Georgia Democrats part of the surge of voters casting ballots in GOP primaries? Early data suggests that could be the case.
AJC election guru Mark Niesse crunched the numbers and determined about 7% of Georgia voters who have cast GOP ballots so far previously pulled a Democratic ballot two years ago. That’s about 16,000 voters of the roughly 237,000 who voted in the Republican primary.
Since Georgia is an open primary state – meaning voters can choose whichever party’s ballot they want – crossing party lines to cast a primary vote is not a new phenomenon. But it could factor in tight races on May 24.
Some Democrats might vote strategically to help nominate a Republican they see as more vulnerable in November. Others may like Republican candidates or want to punish David Perdue and other candidates backed by former President Donald Trump.
“Democrats that want to send a clear message to David Perdue and Donald Trump are voting against all of Trump’s endorsements,” said Larry Weiner, a Democrat who said he and several friends voted in the GOP primary. “Come November, we vote for Democrats.”
State election figures show smaller numbers of Republican voters from 2020 are voting in the Democratic primary this year. Less than 1% of Democratic voters participated in the 2020 GOP primary.
Overall, early voting turnout has shattered one record after another. Through Sunday, nearly 414,000 people have participated in the primary.
That includes about 57% who have cast GOP ballots, a higher proportion in part because of contested races at the top of the ticket. Another 43% have chosen Democratic ballots and less than 1% have voted nonpartisan.
Twice as many Georgians cast ballots yesterday compared to the previous Saturday, with turnout reaching 28K. Through 13 days of early/absentee voting, 408,897 have voted. R: 234,731 D: 171,300 NP: 2,866#gapol
The AJC’s Shannon McCaffrey was on the campaign trail with Trump-endorsed Republicans in Ellijay over the weekend, where Burt Jones played warm-up act at a stop Saturday with Herschel Walker.
“Every time Herschel invites me to come to an event, I drop everything and go because I know it will be a well-attended event,” said Jones, who is running for lieutenant governor. “I don’t mind riding Herschel’s coattails any day of the week.”
But while Jones leaned into “election integrity” themes pushed by Donald Trump that are animating the GOP base, Walker steered clear of the topic.
Awesome afternoon in Gilmer County at Poole’s BBQ + Engelheim Vineyards with my friend @HerschelWalker!
Instead, he seemed to be reaching out to disaffected Trump voters.
“I say, hate Donald Trump if you must but his polices were great. Were they not?” Walker asked.
“A bad tweet is not that bad now, is it?” he asked to applause.
GOP Establishment figures are rallying around Gov. Brian Kemp in the closing days of the May 24 primary against former U.S. Sen. David Perdue. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey stumped with him Sunday, and ex-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie clashed with Trump after word of his Tuesday stop emerged.
Gov. Brian Kemp, who ran as an insurgent outsider against a party favorite with Trump's support in 2018, has suddenly emerged as an unlikely hero of the GOP establishment as he races to fend off David Perdue’s challenge. #gapolhttps://t.co/Iy0UqPL8dZ
Kemp can now count former Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle among his endorsers. The governor’s one-time bitter rival, who lost the 2018 GOP runoff to Kemp, was among a group of GOP veterans to endorse the incumbent.
And he made a rare appearance alongside the governor to support his reelection to the job Cagle once hoped would be his.
Democrats tried to project unity at the party’s signature gala on Friday, a contrast to the warring at the top of the GOP ticket. Stacey Abrams slammed the GOP-backed effort to control how educators teach about race, while U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock pressed the White House to forgive student debt.
Illinois’ U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger isn’t running for re-election, but his Country First political committee says it’s “channeling our time, talent, and treasure to take on the most toxic partisans,” in the country, including U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.
Kinzinger is encouraging independents and Democrats in the 14th Congressional District to request Republican primary ballots and to vote for any of five candidates running against U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. Three Democrats are also running to challenge Greene in November.
We spoke with Kinzinger over the weekend and he made a direct connection to Greene and the rhetoric that was apparently espoused by the attacker in the Buffalo mass shooting Saturday.
“She’s very associated with white nationalism, and we see yesterday what white nationalism can lead to,” Kinzinger said on Sunday.
“My party has to take ownership of its role in that. It has to take ownership of the fact that even though most members haven’t embraced white nationalism outright, we’ve embraced members that have, people like Paul Gosar, Marjorie Taylor Greene, etc. This country is about to be just torn apart, and we’re certainly playing a terrible role in that.”
Greene was asked about Kinzinger earlier this month during a press event in the 14th District.
“I just don’t take Adam Kinzinger serious. He’s not running for reelection. I think he’s applying for a job pretty much every time he opens his mouth. And this is not someone that I take serious.”
POSTED: Georgia Democratsreacted over the weekend to what police say was a racially motivated shooting Saturday in Buffalo, N.Y. The response from Republicans was more muted.
The contest between Democratic U.S. Reps. Carolyn Bourdeaux and Lucy McBath in Georgia’s 7th Congressional District is one of the most competitive races this cycle.
On Friday, the president of Social Security Works PAC announced that he was making a rare primary endorsement by backing McBath.
Jon “Bowzer” Bauman said he had long-standing concerns about Bourdeaux’s brand of moderatism, citing her philosophy on government programs like social security and Medicare.
The PAC spent about $12,000 nationwide in the 2020 cycle. Its parent organization’s stated mission is to protect Social Security for at-risk and disadvantaged populations.
McBath supporters have also taken issue with recent social media posts by the Bourdeaux campaign accusing her opponent of “ceding the 6th to the NRA” by switching races once her old district was redrawn.
McBath became a prominent gun control activist after her teenage son was murdered, and her allies took the comment as an insult.
Bourdeaux’s campaign tells us that they stand behind their messaging that McBath “abandoned her district and surrendered her seat” to Republicans.
Democrats in the 7th also have a third candidate, state Rep. Donna McLeod, who likes to remind voters she is the only one of the three who actually lives within the district boundaries. She’s seen as a longshot contender.
We told you last week that Ambassador Andrew Young had endorsed U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux over U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath in the 7th Congressional District primary.
Well, there is a house divided.
Carolyn Young, the ambassador’s wife, co-hosted a fundraiser for McBath on Sunday along with House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, who was in town to collect an honorary degree from Morehouse College.
U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, a Morehouse man himself, was the commencement speaker at the Morehouse ceremony.
The crowded race in the 10th Congressional District includes Trump-endorsed Democrat-turned-Republican Vernon Jones, wealthy pro-Trump trucking executive Mike Collins, and a host of conservatives vying to get into a likely runoff between some combination of the many candidates running.
Now David Curry, another candidate who is also the Henry County Tax Commissioner, has a new ad with two MAGA-hatted boys duking it out over who likes Donald Trump the best.
“Haven’t we all had enough of this?” Curry asks in the ad. “It looks like I have to be the adult in the room.”
Fair Fight Action announced Monday a slate of statewide endorsements for the 2022 contests.
The political organization founded by Stacey Abrams is, not surprisingly, backing Abrams’ bid for governor, along with U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock’s campaign for a full six-year term. And it sided with state Rep. Bee Nguyen, one of several Democrats in the crowded race for secretary of state.
“These groundbreaking candidates understand the struggles of everyday Georgians because they have lived them,” said Cianti Stewart-Reid, the organization’s director.
What was just as notable were the races left off the list: The group didn’t weigh in on the contests for attorney general, labor commissioner or insurance commissioner, among others.
Former President Barack Obama focused on Georgia Saturday when he shared an Instagram post highlighting Kwajelyn Jackson, the director for Feminist Women’s Health Center, an Atlanta abortion clinic.
Obama was recognizing the “Bans Off Our Bodies” abortion rights rallies held in Atlanta and across the country. The organization is a plaintiff in the legal challenge against Georgia’s six-week abortion ban.
Our AJC colleague Maya T. Prabhu reports that Jackson also took over Obama’s Instagram stories, posting about the facility she leads and including clips of her speech from the Atlanta rally held at Liberty Plaza by the Capitol.
Today in Washington:
We expect the weekend’s mass shootings in New York and California to drive conversation -- but likely not much action on gun restrictions;
The Senate is expected to take a procedural vote on nearly $40 billion in additional aid to Ukraine, which three Georgia Republicans opposed last week. Look for final action later this week;
The House has a series of votes scheduled on mostly non-controversial measures.
President Joe Biden pulled a switch-a-roo when it came to the nomination of Dean of the House Calvin Smyre.
The president announced Friday that the longtime Democratic legislator has now been nominated to serve as ambassador to the Bahamas rather than be assigned to the Dominican Republic.
The confirmation process is still ahead of him, but Smyre would no longer have to beef up on his Spanish. Meanwhile, your Jolters are cooking up excuses for work trips to the Caribbean.
Sad news came in over the weekend, when we learned Ron Martin, the editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and a top editor of USA Today, has passed away. Martin had been the longtime editor of The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution when he shepherded, and then oversaw, the merger of the two.
Our deepest condolences to Martin’s many family, friends and former colleagues.