Both parties placed nonbinding votes on their respective ballots that allow them to take the pulse of their constituents. While the voters’ responses may give lawmakers an idea of what issues to tackle, the questions themselves were not legislation.
In Cobb County, 89 percent of Republican voters said they support a $100 cap on lobbyist gifts, while statewide 87 percent of Republican support the limit.
Democrats asked a similar question on their ballot. In Cobb, 80 percent of Democratic voters support ending the current practice of permitting unlimited gifts from lobbyist to state lawmakers, while statewide, 72 percent said they do.
“It’s a wakeup call for the legislators,” Cobb GOP Chairman Joe Dendy said. “There’s a lot of mistrust for the government now.”
Dendy said that if lawmakers listen to the will of the people, they will cap lobbyist gifts.
“The constituents have spoken, and I think the legislators should listen,” he said.
State Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan (D-Austell) said it would be interesting to see what the Republican leadership decides to do in the coming session regarding that request.
“It’s consistent with even what we saw in the data with TSPLOST that there’s a level of distrust with government of even some elected officials, and I think that’s what undergirds that sentiment,” Morgan said.
Republicans were also asked whether Georgia should have casino gambling with proceeds going to education.
In Cobb, 51 percent of Republicans said yes. Statewide, 50 percent said yes.
“It’s still a huge question mark on bringing more gambling into the state,” Dendy said.
Yet Morgan said it shows a strong interest in funding education.
“There’s a valid concern, and maybe even a fear, that excessive gambling could bring addiction and more drinking and some of the other things that come along with that, but on the other hand, I think that has to be balanced with the understanding that we’re talking about adults who should be able to control their own behaviors and participate in a perfectly legal activity, and particularly if it’s going to benefit education,” Morgan said. “Overall, it sounds to me like there is support in the state for casino gambling so long as the proceeds benefit something as important as education.”
A third Republican question concerned abortion: “Should the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to provide that the paramount right to life is vested in each innocent human being from his or her earliest biological beginning without regard to age, race, sex, health, function or condition of dependency?”
In Cobb, 60 percent of Republican voters said yes, while statewide 66 percent said yes.
“I don’t think it’s really going to change that many minds because that’s probably about the same split within the Legislature as far as personal viewpoints go because you have a lot of moderate Republicans who on that particular issue are not sold on the conservatives viewpoint,” Dendy said.
Morgan answers “absolutely not” to the question.
“That’s a medical decision between a woman and her doctor and her family, and I actually am surprised that the numbers are so high in opposition to because I think there’s an assumption that if you’re Republican then you’re supposed to fall in line with the litmus test, and what that says to me is there’s diversity within the Republican Party … and that’s how it should be,” Morgan said.
In response to the question that asked if citizens who wish to vote in a primary election should be required to register by their political party affiliation at least 30 days prior, 53 percent of Cobb Republican voters said no, the same percentage across the state.
Dendy said he was surprised by that response.
“I’m all for declaring your party to keep people from bouncing back and forth in primaries and affecting the other party’s selection of their candidates, and that’s exactly what it allows people to do,” he said.
But Morgan said it’s a freedom of speech issue.
“If you live in a Democratic stronghold and you are a Republican, you should have the right to participate in a Democratic primary so that you can participate and have a voice in who is going to represent you,” she said. In addition, “It’s important for people to have the right and the ability to vote for the candidate and not the party, because our party system arguably is broken and we shouldn’t tie the hands of voters in that way.”
A total of 68 percent of Republicans in Cobb said active duty military personnel who are younger than 21 should be allowed to obtain a Georgia weapons license, a question 69 percent of Republican voters said yes to statewide.
“It’s common sense,” Dendy said. “Most people in the service know how to handle a weapon a lot better than people who have never been in the service.”
Morgan said she wasn’t surprised by that vote.
“You’re talking about military personnel who are protecting our lives every day and have the ability to carry firearms wherever they serve, and so I think that’s probably a parity issue for voters,” she said.
Still, Morgan has reservation about allowing a weapons license for people younger than 21.
“There’s a reason why you have to be 21 to carry a weapon,” she said. “There’s a level of maturity that goes along with that.”
The first question asked of Democrats was if the state Constitution should be amended to allow the state to override locally elected school boards’ decisions when it comes to the creation of charter schools in your county or city.
In Cobb, 55 percent of Democrats said no, while statewide 56 percent of Democrats said no.
Dendy said one good reason for not being a Democrat was that he didn’t have to answer that question.
Morgan, a strong supporter of school choice, took offense to the question’s wording.
“This was supposed to be a question regarding the constitutional amendment that will be on November’s ballot, but what a poor attempt at that it was,” Morgan said. “Very biased, very poorly worded, and so I actually saw the positive in that with as poorly written a question it was, it still had 40 percent support, and so imagine if it was written in a much more fair and factual way.”
In Cobb, 83 percent of Democrats said they support adopting an income tax credit for home energy costs to support the economic security of families, while 80 percent of Democrats in Georgia said yes.
“It’s just another one of those liberal questions of what else can we get out of the government,” Dendy said. “Anything you throw out like that, they’re going to bite on it.”
Morgan said she didn’t see that question going anywhere either.
In Cobb, 87 percent of Democrats said Georgia should reduce the sales taxes on ‘made in Georgia’ products to support the growth of small businesses in the state. In Georgia, 87 percent of Democrats voted in favor of the question.