An Idea So Crazy It Just Might Work!

Actually, it doesn’t sound crazy at all, and just might save Georgia taxpayers some money. Below is a letter from Sandy Springs City Councilman Gabriel Sterling to hold the Presidential preference primary and the partisan primaries on the same day. It would save the Counties the cost of holding two elections in one year, and might get Georgia a bit more national attention in the Presidential nomination process next year -or at least, no less than we have received in the past. It’s worth discussing, in light of Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s announcement tomorrow.

And does anyone know why we have these two election on separate dates?

Dear Georgia Colleague,

I wanted to take a moment to share an idea with you that could potentially save every county in Georgia, and therefore their taxpayers, money next year.

Being 2012, we are scheduled to have a Presidential Preference Primary and a General Primary. My question, and one also asked by many I have talked to, is “Why”?

For as long as I can remember, we have had these two elections separate out of tradition. Many believe that Georgia separated the two so that local Democrats would not have to share the same ballot as the national Democrats. But if we combined the General Primary and the Presidential Preference Primary to the same day, it would save millions of taxpayer dollars across all 159 counties of Georgia.

Here are a few examples of costs for countywide elections in Georgia (numbers from a quick gleaning of published reports):

Athens/Clarke County: $52,000
Cobb County: $400,000
Fulton County: $980,000

I know that every Georgia county has been looking at cuts to their budgets. Here the State Legislature and the Secretary of State can help them out.

I write this knowing that the Secretary of State has been given the ability to set the date of the Presidential Preference Primary. This was done so Georgia could be in the mix to have an impact on the GOP nominating process (as President Obama appears will avoid any serious primary challenge). In 2008, we had the earliest Presidential Preference date in decades -on February 5. Generally, we have held our Presidential Primaries in early March. However, in none of these has Georgia played a major role on the GOP side.

There are new rules in place from the Republican National Committee governing the nominating process. The traditional early states (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina) may hold their nominating processes in February. Any other state may hold their caucus or primary in March, but only if they apportion delegates proportionally. So if a candidate receives 25% of the vote, they get 25% of that state’s delegates. Any
remaining states wanting to keep the traditional “winner take all” for delegates, must hold their events in April or later.

Here is the GOP Presidential Primary and Caucus calendar as of today:

February 6: Iowa Caucuses
February 14: New Hampshire Primary
February 18: Nevada Caucuses
February 28: South Carolina Primary
February 28: Arizona Primary(in violation of RNC rules)
February 28: Michigan Primary (in violation of RNC rules)
March 6 (Super Tues):Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas,
Vermont and Virginia Primaries, Colorado and Idaho Caucuses

By March 6, the GOP nominee will likely be pretty clear. If Georgia is forced to dilute its delegates by proportional representation, that will handicap us at the National Convention. So why would we do that? The Legislature has already moved the General Primary date once to July 31. Why not move the date again to June 12 or 19? There is no other state having a primary or a caucus on that day. Georgia would have the sole media
attention. Further, if the nomination is still in doubt, we would have the single largest group of delegates to fight for of any state left.

If you asked the County Commissioners in your area, I am sure they would appreciate the help in easing their budget burdens …no matter how many dollars we are taking about.

For this to work, the Legislature, Governor and Secretary of State must work together. Saving a few million taxpayer dollars in these tight budgetary times is something I’m sure we all could agree with.

If you have any questions for me, please feel free to email me at [email protected]


Gabriel Sterling
City Councilman
City of Sandy Springs

PS: This proposal is my own opinion. It is not meant to reflect the opinion of the City of Sandy Springs or any of its officials other than myself.


  1. jws says:

    question: many rural counties have few if any contested races on the GOP side locally. most local candidates in small towns still run as dems simply out of habit. would choosing to vote in the local dem primary exclude that person from voting in the gop presidential primary?

  2. @jws: There is no reason that it should. They are technically two primaries. So if choosing to vote GOP in the Presidential Primary has no legal connection to choosing to vote Democrat in the General Primary.

    • Calypso says:

      I think jws is asking because you have to ask for either a Republican or Democratic primary ballot when you vote.

      • jws says:

        i’m all for saving money, but i think holding two different primaries on the same day would create lots of confusion. you would still have to declare either dem or gop for the local partisan primaries and that would lead most to believe they would have to vote the same way in the presidential primary. having separate registrations and voting machines for each primary would slow down the voting process plus require double the number of poll workers.

  3. Doug Grammer says:

    I would prefer we hold it on March 6th, just because I’d like us to have a real say in whom the nominee will be.

    jws, poses a good question. If we do hold it on July 31, could someone vote in a Dem primary and then vote in a GOP Presidential Preference Primary on the same day? My thought is “No.” On the day of a primary, you are declaring yourself a member of a party for 1 day.

    I live in a mid-sized county and we should see a lot of GOP candidates for local office. About half of my county officials are GOP and the other half are Dem….we are working on that.

    • But Doug, I think we have over thought this “let’s influence who the nominee is”…it never really works out. And by my spit-balling math we could save the taxpayers of Georgia somewhere between $4-$9 Million. That is real money, especially for smaller counties that are having genuine budget issues.

      • Doug Grammer says:

        It depends on when we hold the election on if we are influencing the process or not. If it’s not super Tuesday or before, I’m fine with moving it back until just before the national convention. If we were risky, we would could hold it on in Feb., take the delegate cut, and get lots of primary money spent in Georgia.

        I’m all for saving money, but there are logistical issues to holding the PPP on July 31…. unless you are fine with everyone declaring one party or another for a day. I’m actually OK with following Florida and having registration by party.

  4. Charlie says:

    The problem is that the General Primary can not be held until the DOJ or courts pre-clear Georgia’s maps. For that reason, the GP was pushed until the end of July this year.

    The Georgia code allowing for the PPP date requires the PPP to be set “not later than the second Tuesday in June.”

    For this idea to float, the Governor would have to call a special session, or the Presidential Preference Primary AND the General Primary date would have to be moved sometime after legislation could be signed into law in January 2012 at the earliest.

    Now, who wants another special session raise your hands?…..

    OK, seing none, who wants to move election dates (which would impact the T-SPLOST date again) primary dates in January or February after campaigns are already underway with votes as early as March?…

      • Todd Rehm says:

        Generally laws passed during the Session take effect July 1, and even if you set an earlier effective date, the Governor has to have 30 days to sign it. Plus you’re assuming that the county elections offices will be prepared with voters put in the new districts, despite the fact that there is no deadline for doing so except “before the election.”

  5. One – I think when everyone is rushing to be the first there’s actually some value in being the last – though not a perfect analogy look how much attention the late Pennsylvania primary got in ’08 for the Dems.

    Two – I’m always sympathetic to budgetary issues. However, it’s not as if the Presidential primary is just being sprung on counties. It happens every four years, they gotta pay for it. A lot of counties have also historically used this date for other matters like tax votes etc.

    Don’t think it’s gonna happen.

  6. FYI, Gabriel made this suggestion prior to knowing that Secretary of State Kemp would be making his public statement on an election date tomorrow. While it’s likely a moot point now, it would have been something very good to consider in this particular year, given severe budget issues.

  7. The legislature will be in session during that time… meaning they can’t raise money. You can’t have an election when the incumbents are prohibitted by law from fundraising… can you? 😉

      • drjay says:

        well, not even just the raising money part–we have a part time legislature, to have them be involved in an election in the middle of the 40 days a year they are actually supposed to be working as legislators does seem problematic, now if we were saying move the prez primary to may or june, i suppose that would be different, it was not that long ago that the june california primary was still a very important event on the prez race calender…

Comments are closed.