Voter Turnout Low in the Runoff Election Even With Increased Opportunities to Vote and New Technologies

Despite a record breaking Presidential Preference Primary on March 1st in Georgia, the July 26th runoffs did not see the best turnout. In a press release issued by Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office, the voter turnout for Tuesday’s election, which was the last election for Georgia until the November General Election, was declared “low” at a staggering 11.48%. These elections were held for any candidate that did not win outright during the May 24th statewide General Primary and Nonpartisan General Election. Those elections saw around 20% of the electorate turn out.

So why was turnout so low? Well, there are a few factors to think about. First of all, as any political science student would know, runoffs normally and naturally see extremely low turnout. Some voters will not even realize that there was a runoff election that they could have participated in until after it has already occurred. Second, all of Georgia was not voting in the July 26th runoffs. Only 96 of Georgia’s 159 counties participated. Third, with nowhere near as many candidates on the ballot as was on the May 24th ballot, there was less advertisement and less incentive to go vote. Finally, peoples’ mindset was no longer in election mode. May was no doubt election season across Georgia, as summer draws to a close though, many voters are focused on back to school season. These factors, and plenty more, can help explain the nine percent drop despite the increased opportunities for voting.

On this issue, the Secretary of State said:

“In Georgia, voters have unprecedented access to the polls with early voting opportunities and new technologies, such as Online Voter Registration, the ‘My Voter Page’, and the office’s free smartphone app. These tools allow voters to easily register to vote and stay informed throughout the election cycle.”

“In addition to the informational resources and tools we offer Georgians, we also work to ensure Georgians have secure, accessible, and fair elections in our state. Communication with Georgia voters is key, and we bring all assets to bear on Election Day.”

Brian Kemp was elected Secretary of State in 2010. Since then, he has worked to bring Georgia elections into the 21st Century and has tried to ensure that how the office handles elections in the state evolves with the times. The Secretary of State’s Office introduced Online Voter Registration in March of 2014. After registering to vote, voters can use the “My Voter Page” on the Secretary of State’s website or the free smartphone app to see voting information, polling location, and view sample ballots. His office’s expanded use of social media allows voters to report problems or express complaints on Election Day, but the most well-known usage of social media on Election Day is getting friends and family to the polls using the iconic #PostThePeach along with a picture of the “I’m a Georgia Voter” sticker.

While the low turnout is concerning, the Secretary of State and his office is clearly working to fight this problem. Ultimately, though, it comes down to getting registered voters to the polls.

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augusta52Dave BearseJoshMcKoonBenevolus Recent comment authors
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Benevolus
Benevolus

I know I sound like a broken record, but…
Assuming one believes that higher turnout is better, Ranked Choice Voting should be a relatively easy improvement. No primaries, no runoffs, every vote counts.

Not sure if our electronic voting machines can be made to do RCV, but they are getting old anyway, and ScanTron can certainly work with RCV. I believe we still use a lot of ScanTron for absentee ballots.

http://www.fairvote.org/

JoshMcKoon
JoshMcKoon

Ranked Choice Voting is a great idea. That would also allow us to go back to the pre-2014 election calendar which:

(a) means qualifying for state legislators won’t occur during the legislative session; and

(b) there will be a meaningful period of time to campaign (versus the current 10 weeks or so).

Benevolus
Benevolus

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day! 🙂

Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

A number of court decisions this week highlighted what we’ve known here in Georgia for years, that new GOP voter ID requirements are primarily motivated to disenfranchise opposition.

Damned courts. No wonder the GOP has moved to politicize them.

augusta52
augusta52

There probably also are some voters who don’t want to be identified by political party (don’t want follow-up calls, direct mail and so on), so they skip the runoff…or perhaps there were candidates they wanted to back on both party ballots, but they could only choose one. But the reality is that in most legislative districts in Georgia, and arguably (for now) in all of the state’s 14 congressional districts, the party primary basically functions as the general election. In the Atlanta area, Congressman John Lewis has never had to worry about GOP opposition since his initial election to Congress… Read more »