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.