Georgia 2020 Primary Recap

June 15, 2020

Pardon Our Dust

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Georgia voters headed to the polls on June 9 to cast their ballots in the Presidential and general election primaries for state and federal offices. The elections, which included, among others, all members of the Georgia General Assembly, three open U.S. House Seats, and a U.S. Senate seat, were initially scheduled for March 24 and May 19, respectively. Although the election results contained only a few surprises, the election is likely to be remembered more for how the votes were cast.

Prompted by efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19, all registered voters were mailed an application to vote by absentee ballot in March. The unprecedented move resulted in record levels of absentee requests and participation, but the demand also created challenges for county election offices. Some voters reported never receiving their requested ballot or receiving them too late to return by mail. Ultimately, more than 1.1 million absentee ballots were returned, eclipsing the previous record in 2018 of 219,731.

A lack of poll workers and increased COVID-19 related health and safety requirements resulted in many regular polling precincts being combined to one location. Tuesday was also the first time voters statewide used the state’s new touch screen/paper printout voting machines. The combination of larger precincts and technological challenges resulted in long lines and, in some cases, hours-long wait times. As a result, some precincts in metro counties were ordered to stay open up to two or three hours past their scheduled closing time.

Despite a delay in certifying the official results, the unofficial results overwhelmingly favored incumbents and frontrunners. The Democratic Senate Primary drew seven contenders seeking to challenge sitting U.S. Senator David Perdue in November. Owing to name recognition and fundraising, John Ossoff was able to cross the 50 percent threshold to avoid a runoff with the next closest candidate, Teresa Tomlinson. Candidates in at least half of the six primaries for three open U.S. House seats will be decided in August runoff elections, while Congressman David Scott narrowly avoided a runoff to retain his seat.

In state legislative races, all but two members appear to have defeated primary challengers with a few moving on to a runoff or close enough that the results may be challenged. This is particularly notable because incumbent members have, by law, been prohibited from fundraising since the legislative session began in mid-January. Due to COVID-19, the legislative session was suspended on March 13, leaving legislators in campaign limbo until the session officially adjourns. Before members are free to resume fundraising efforts for the November general election, lawmakers return to the capitol on June 15 to complete the 2020 legislative session.