Except for presidential primary years, the winter months are usually pretty quiet on the election front in Georgia, with most voters choosing to hibernate rather than think about elections that normally don’t take place until the heat of midsummer anyway.
But this year if you’re choosing to snooze through election news that is becoming increasingly hard to ignore, you may find yourself facing a ballot before you know it without a clue of which candidate favors what.
Unlike previous years we can’t afford to tune out the election cycle noise while waiting for temperatures to rise and snowstorms to disappear from the Doppler radar. This year the election schedule is different, and while it’s going to take some getting used to, the fact is we all need to start paying attention now.
The big change started when the courts said Georgia couldn’t hold its federal election primary, then a runoff three weeks later, because soldiers overseas could get ballots in time to participate. Once the federal election calendar was changed, state lawmakers realized that unless we were going to be traipsing to the polls off and on all year, the schedule for Georgia elections needed to be changed as well.
The end result? Rather than going to the primary polls in the customary heat of July, voters will be marking their ballots before Memorial Day, with the primary set for May 20. And the traditional three weeks between the primary and the runoff will be dramatically increased, with the runoff set for July 22.
The early primary date also means a much earlier than normal qualifying period for candidates. Those planning to seek elective office will sign up for the chance to do so March 3-7.
While the earlier elections certainly will take some getting used to, some are predicting the end result might be better overall turnout for the upcoming primary, which will be held while most youngsters are still in school and before the vacation season begins.
The new election schedule also means those serving in the General Assembly will have to hit the ground running as soon as the final gavel falls, as their campaigning time has been shortened considerably.
For the rest of us, it means we need to start paying attention to the debates, speeches and platform building that we normally would be ignoring this time of the year.
That background droning of would-be elected officials is going to quickly take center stage, and before we know it the time will be upon us to make our choices known.
Ready or not, election season 2014 is upon us. Time to take notice so as to make well informed, intelligent decisions.