Tuesday’s voting on non-binding questions in both parties’ primaries also show Republicans split on legalizing casinos as a way to fund education while Democrats think the state shouldn’t charter schools when local education boards say no.
Republicans put five questions on their ballot, and Democrats put four. The straw polls don’t change any law or require legislators take action, but Tuesday’s results on some of them may be hard to ignore.
The most-talked about was the lobbyist-gift question. With 1 million votes counted at 10 p.m., Republicans voted 87 percent in favor of a $100 limit, while Democrats voted 71 percent in support of “ending the current practice of unlimited gifts.”
House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, has continued to reject gift limits as ineffective. As the votes were coming in, his spokesman Marshall Guest issued a statement saying Ralston was listening but not persuaded.
“The speaker continues to advocate for true ethics reform, but has serious reservations about supporting gimmicks cloaked as ‘ethics reform’ and sold to Georgians as a way to help restore the public’s trust in government,” Guest said. “The speaker will listen to Georgians after they go to the polls and will continue to lead the efforts to give the Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission the autonomy, power and resources it needs to properly police our state’s public officials.”
The GOP casino question came out almost evenly divided.
It was fought by the Georgia Family Council in a low-budget, email and social-media campaign.
“It’s certain that if one casino is built, then many more will follow. Cities like Savannah, Macon, Augusta and others would surely be targeted for big gambling facilities,” one of the organization’s flyers read. “Whether it’s one casino or many, it won’t be the win-win for communities that it will be portrayed to be.”
Ironically, an Atlanta developer who wants to build a casino urged voters to vote no on the question. He said the wording was designed to help opponents.
“It is a flawed question and does not accurately ask voters about our project,” said Dan O’Leary, who proposed building a casino north of Atlanta with 7,000 video terminals running games of the Georgia Lottery.
The GOP ballot also contained a question about adding the so-called human-life amendment to the state constitution. Partly because of efforts by the Christian Coalition and some church groups, the vote came out 68 percent for it, showing the party remains heavily influenced by the social conservatives that have long been dominant.
Questions Democrats asked besides the gift limit included opposition to state-chartered schools over the objections of local education boards and tax credits for home insulation and local manufacturers. There were no public campaigns for or against any of those propositions.