Surprise! In Georgia, you are not officially a republican or a democrat

Published 12:11 pm Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Dan is a republican. He is very much proud of the republican party and his values line up with the party’s beliefs. Dan’s history indicates he is a reliable republican supporter. His first presidential ballot was cast for Ronald Reagan, and he has voted republican ever since. Dan is bright red and proud of it.

Kelly is a democrat. She will not be swayed from the party. Every political season she can be found displaying every democratic campaign sign in her yard, from local races to federal races. She, much like Dan does, identifies with the larger concepts her party represents. Kelly is awfully blue and proud of it.

But you might be surprised to know Dan is not a registered republican. Likewise, Kelly is not a registered democrat. In Georgia you can not and do not register with a party. In Georgia, you are simply a voter. That might sting for some, as your identity might have just taken a ding. That might confuse others, especially our neighbors who have moved here from another state where you do register with a party or as an independent. After hot political issues hits the news, it is not unusual for the elections office to receive calls from angry voters who no longer want anything to do with a party they thought they were registered with. Just like there is no need to register a particular party or as an independent, there is no need to cancel or swap party affiliations. Since you are not a party registered voter, you are free to vote any party ticket, or as an independent.

What does that mean for the average voter?  Many of our elected positions are partisan, meaning the candidate must pick a party to affiliate with or to run as an independent. Local, state and federal positions all have partisan races. Some have non-partisan. Your superior court judge is not affiliated with a party, your sheriff is. Your probate judge is not affiliated with a party, your magistrate judge is. Americus City Council and Mayoral candidates are not affiliated with a party, but your Sumter County Board of Commissioners are. In partisan races, a primary election is held first. It is helpful to remember that “primary” is often used synonymously with “first.” The primary election is the first step to identifying your final candidate. Why is this needed? Because several people may decide to run as a republican or a democrat to hold the same elected position. On federal and state levels we see this often, as there may be several contenders for the republican or democratic nomination. It does not happen as drastically on a local level, but it does regularly happen.

Some may remember years ago when candidates Herschel Smith and Mike Cheokas both ran for state house as a republican. It was at the primary that the voters chose Mike Cheokas to be the republican candidate. Mike would go on to the general election facing the chosen democratic candidate, Bill McGowan. It is helpful to remember elections follow a “first things first” philosophy. And the primary/first step to identify a final winner is to pick which democrat, republican or independent you want in the next phase of the race. It may also be helpful to think of elections in a sports’ terms. There are levels of play offs before the champions are determined, just like there are primaries before a winning candidate is announced.

And here is where it gets tricky. Remember you are not registered with a party, so you get to chose if you want to vote a republican, democrat or independent ballot. For some, choosing is as easy as picking the ballot of the party they identify with. For some, they know they want to vote for a certain candidate, so they pick the ballot with his/her name on it.  As in the case of the 2016 election, locally, there were no contended races on the republican ballot, so many chose to vote the democratic ballot where there were contended races. Each voter gets to decide how, why and which ballot they choose to vote at primary. It is very important to note that nonpartisan races, such as superior court judge or probate judge will appear on all of the ballots. According to Elections Superintendent, Randy Howard, nonpartisan races are both started and finished at the primary race. In the example of 2016, Judge R. Rucker Smith won his election as did Probate Judge Stephanie Bennett. Since the voter gets to choose between all the candidates at the primary, there is no need for their name to be placed on the ballot come general election. Conversely, when the primary produces a partisan winner, they move on to the general election.

Everybody in Sumter County has reason to show up at the polls this May. There are federal, state and local elections this May. Primary/First steps will be taken to determine the contenders for Governor, Senate, US House, State House, and other races. But locally who and what is on the ballot?

All Sumter County voters will be asked to vote upon Transportation Sales and Use Tax. (For more information on this item please visit americustimesrecorder.com). Voters will also have to determine their vote for judgeships and representation on state and federal levels.

Voters in Sumter County District 2 and Sumter County District 4 will get to cast their vote for county commissioner. The District 2 contender is Mark Waddell who is running as a republican. To vote for Waddell, you must request a republican ballot. He is also running unopposed, and the seat will be determined at the primary. District 4 has two contenders. The democratic contender is Mathis Wright and to vote for him, you must request the democratic ballot. The republican contender is David Baldwin and to vote for him you must request a republican ballot. For the primary election, neither of the candidates will have opposition which indicates the general election in November will offer the District 4 voter a choice between Wright and Baldwin.

Please note there are some much contended races you might want your voice heard on. Those highlighted most in the news are that of republican candidate for governor, republican candidate for senate and republican candidate for US House District 2. Sanford Bishop, the incumbent for US House District 2 also has opposition on the democratic ticket. Please note, should you want to vote for Mathis Wright, you will not be able to vote for any republican candidate at any level. Should you want to vote for David Baldwin or Mark Waddell, you will not get to vote on any democratic races at any level.  Another high ballot example, should you want to vote for democrat Stacey Abrams for governor, you will not get to vote for the republican candidate for US Senate which includes Gary Black, Josh Clark, Kelvin King, Jonathan “Jon” McColumn, Latham Sandler and Herschel Junior Walker.

Choosing a ballot is not an easy task to some. Sometimes it feels as if you are being asked to determine if senator, governor or county commissioner is more important to you. Please know you have time to educate yourself on the ballot, but you will have to choose between three different ballots. To compare the ballots, please visit sumtercountygaelections.us or reference the Americus Times-Recorder. Please do your research before going to the polls. Election workers and officials are not permitted to answer any questions to help you decide which ballot to vote. There will be sample ballots posted at the polls, and you are certainly welcome to take as much time as you need in order to make the right decision for you. However, if you are more comfortable walking into the polls already knowing your choice, it is wise to invest in the process earlier.

All Sumter County citizens have a reason to vote in this election, no matter where you live in the county. If you wish to cast your vote early, you may do so at the Griffin Bell Golf and Conference Center at 1800 South Lee Street in Americus. Early voting begins Monday, May 2 and lasts until Friday, May 20, 2022. Saturday voting will take place on May 7 and May 14. You may vote between the times of 8am and 5pm. Election day will be Tuesday, May 24, 2022, at your regular voting precinct from 7am to 7pm. To determine where your polls are located or any other voting related matter, please visit mvp.sos.ga.gov. Again, to see sample ballots, please visit sumtercountygaelections.us.