Another Kind of Early Voting

Late-cycle party primaries were for many years common in the South, presumably a legacy of the Solid South days when Democratic primaries were “tantamount” to a general election and there was no need to provide time for general election campaigns. But there’s been a slow trend in the other direction, which made a sizable leap in Georgia today, per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Jim Galloway:

A federal judge has formally moved the date of Georgia’s federal primaries to May 20 – another step in the process of making the 2014 election calendar the earliest in state history.

U.S. District Judge Steve Jones had earlier ordered that primaries for congressional offices – including the all-important U.S. Senate contest – be held on June 3, to allow for enough time for overseas ballots for an Aug. 6 runoff to be sent to (and received from) military personnel oversees and other expats.

The move to May was requested by state officials who claimed they did not want to conduct early voting over the Memorial Day weekend. But I’m guessing the Georgia Republican Establishment, such as it is, had something to do with it:

The mid-May date, because it would be more likely to attract more voters than a traditional mid-July date, has also been eyed by many Republicans as a means of reducing the influence of hardcore conservative activists and tea party elements in the GOP. Many GOP strategists fear a field of Senate candidates moving too far right will give Democrats an opening next year.

Just as important as the mid-May date to Republicans is a new, mid-July runoff date. Which would give the Georgia GOP two extra weeks to recover from what’s likely to be a bruising, expensive runoff on the Republican side of the Senate contest.

With three U.S. House members running for the Senate, there’s a chance of major intramural damage occurring below the Senate ballot line (e.g., in Phil Gingrey’s 11th District, where Bob Barr may wind up being the RINO squish moderate in the field), albeit a significantly lower chance of a Democratic upset win in the general election.

In any event, it’s a sign of GOP nervousness about Georgia that Republicans are pushing for earlier primaries.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.