Sunday, March 04, 2012

Nearly All of Oconee County’s Early Voters in Presidential Primary Used Republican Ballot

Different from 2008

Just more than 5 percent of the active registered voters in Oconee County have already cast their ballots in the presidential primaries, for which final voting will take place on Tuesday.

Of the 1,076 votes cast by the end of early voting on Friday, 1,048 (97.4 percent) were cast in the highly contested Republican primary, with the remaining 28 being cast in the Democratic primary, where the only name on the ballot is that of President Barack Obama.

The primaries are open, so voters simply asked for the ballot they wished to use. The same will be possible on Tuesday.

Candidate Signs (Near Courthouse)

Georgia voters do not register by party, and it is clear that Oconee County voters who voted in advance of the Tuesday election opted for the primary in which their vote can make a difference.

In 2008, when both parties had contested primaries, 66.3 percent of those who cast a ballot did so in the Republican primary. That year, 48.6 percent of Oconee County’s 20,264 registered voters turned out for the presidential primary, which was held on Feb. 5.

Obama, McCain Won 2008 Primaries

Obama won on the Democratic side in Oconee County, and eventual nominee John McCain won on the Republican side. Mitt Romney got nearly a third of the vote and was a very close third in the final count.

In 2004, the situation was reversed from 2012. Only the Democratic Party had a contested primary. That year, 70.7 percent of those who cast a ballot in the primaries in Oconee County used the Democratic ballot.

John Edwards got 54.1 percent of the votes Oconee County voters cast in the Democratic primary, and eventual nominee John Kerry got 37.3 percent.

In 2000, 81.5 percent of the ballots were cast with a Republican ballot. Eventual nominee George W. Bush got 54.2 percent against five rivals.

Al Gore got 76.0 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary against the sole rival, Bill Bradley.

Nine Candidates on Republican Ballot

The Republican ballot this year includes the names of nine candidates or former candidates, including Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul.

The USAToday Poll Tracker, based on a compilation of polls in Georgia, shows Gingrich with 40 percent of the vote, Romney with 24 percent, Santorum with 20 percent, and Paul with 7 percent.

The Athens Banner-Herald in today’s edition reported, based on a poll conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, that Gingrich had 38 percent of the vote, Romney 24 percent, Santorum 22 percent and Paul 3 percent.

The Banner-Herald story did not indicate when the poll was conducted, but, according to CNN, the survey was in the field from February 29-March 2. A total of 625 registered Georgia voters who said they were likely to vote in Tuesday's Republican primary were part of the telephone survey, CNN reported.

The USAToday Poll Tracker, which relies on poll reports from Real Clear Politics, has shown Gingrich’s lead increasing in recent days.

In addition to the top four candidates, others on the ballot are Michele Bachmann, Jon Huntsman, Gary Johnson, Rick Perry and Buddy Roemer.

Bachmann, Huntsman, and Perry have ended their campaigns. Johnson, former governor of New Mexico, is no longer seeking the Republican nomination but wants to run as the Libertarian Party nominee.

Roemer, former governor of Louisiana, is still campaigning, though all the attention is on Gingrich, Romney, Santorum and Paul.

Voters in Massachusetts, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia also will be going to the polls on Tuesday. Alaska, Idaho and North Dakota will hold caucuses on that day.

Georgia Has Most Delegates on Tuesday

The Republican Party allocates delegates based on population and number of Republicans holding elected offices in the state, and Georgia’s 76 delegates are the most up for grabs on Tuesday.

Ohio has 66, Tennessee has 58, Virginia has 49, Massachusetts has 41, and Vermont 17. Alaska has 27, Idaho has 32, and North Dakota has 28.

States vary in how they allocate delegates, and the winner in Georgia’s election on Tuesday is unlikely to get all 76 delegates.

Voters in each of the newly created 14 Congressional Districts in the state will select three delegates, for a total of 42.

Only if a candidate gets more 50 percent of the vote in a district, does the candidate get all three delegates. If no candidate gets a majority, the candidate with the most votes receives two delegates and the candidate getting the next most votes gets the third.

Thirty-one delegates are allocated proportionately among the contenders who receive at least 20 percent of the vote statewide.

The three remaining delegates are for party leadership and are bound to the candidate receiving the most votes statewide.

Oconee County is part of the new 10th District, which extends south to Johnson County and includes the northern suburbs of Augusta.

Romney Leads Delegate Count

According to the Associated Press tally of delegates going into primaries and caucuses on Tuesday, Romney has 180, Santorum 90, Gingrich 29 and Paul 23.

When the Republican Party holds its convention from Aug. 27 to 30 in Tampa, a candidates will need 1,144 of the 2,286 delegates to get the nomination.

The election has been a low key affair locally, with very few signs posted for any of the candidates.

It is difficult to guess about turnout on Tuesday.

On March 1 of this year, Oconee County had 21,082 active voters, according to the official records of the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.

The turnout in the early voting is higher than it was before the election in November. In that election, the only issue on the ballot for county voters was the Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.

Only 352 people, representing just 1.5 percent of those eligible, turned out during the 15 days of early voting.

Voters had 16 days to vote in early voting for the election on Tuesday. Added to the days when the Board of Election office was open for early voting was last Saturday.

Pat Hayes, chair of Oconee County Board of Elections and Registration, told me on Friday that only 67 persons took advantage of that opportunity to vote last Saturday.

In addition to the 1,076 votes cast so far, the county has sent out five Democratic ballots and 60 Republican ballots to voters who requested the opportunity to cast their ballots by mail.

Carole Amos from the Oconee County Board of Elections and Registration office released the full report on early voting to me after the office closed at 5 p.m. on Friday.


The original version of this posting reported that 1,060 voters had gone to the polls in early voting. Amos told me today (Monday, March 5) that she had missed 16 voters when she released the tallies to me on Friday evening. The figures above have been corrected to reflect the missing 16 voters.

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