Much of Georgia is on hold. “Essential” services and occupations continue, but it seems the closures are becoming more broad by the day, and the expectation of the duration of our Covid-19 Great Time Out is expanding.
With that reality in mind, Speaker David Ralston has asked Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, verbally and in a follow up letter, to consider moving Georgia’s May primary until no earlier than June 23rd.
You may read the Speaker’s full letter here.
The meat of the correspondence is as follows:
Faced with this uncertainty, many neighboring states have postponed primary run-offs, the general primaries having already been held. These include Alabama moving from March 31st until July 14th, Texas from May 26th until July 14th, North Carolina from May 12th until June 23rd, and Kentucky from May 19th until June 23rd.
Pushing the primary back a month or more gives us more time to allow the situation to improve so that voters can vote in the manner in which they are most familiar. More importantly, it would make our highest priority the health and safety not only of voters, but our hard-working poll workers and elections officials.
A May 19th primary in Georgia would put our state the earliest, by more than a month, than any other in the south.
I realize you have developed plans to accommodate any continuing public health concerns. While I commend the goal, I respectfully submit that many of these measures deserve full and thorough legislative consideration before implementation.
Accordingly, I would request that the General Primary scheduled now for May 19th be postponed to a date no earlier than June 23rd. Further, that the General Primary be conducted utilizing the same procedures which have served our state well, until the elected representatives of Georgia’s citizens have a full opportunity to discuss and consider any changes.
The May 19th primary presents issues for candidates trying to get their message out as well. Set aside the issue that incumbents for statewide offices are prohibited from fundraising while the legislature remains in session. How does any candidate, incumbent or challenger, get their volunteers mobilized and ground campaign executed during a shelter in place mindset? The entire situation is…less than ideal.
Yet, the deadline for a primary is not open ended either. Those overseas (Military and Others) have to have 45 days to receive and return ballots. Primaries have runoffs. So moving the primary also means compressing the turnaround for ballots first for runoffs, then for the November general election.
Georgia faces many challenges in the weeks ahead. Executing primaries to select nominees for a November election need not be one of them.