0

Finally, something both sides agree on

Looking back at Tuesday’s party primary elections, one aspect that flew under most people’s radar was an issue that got surprisingly strong bipartisan support from voters.

Both parties asked their voters this question, though Republicans were much more specific in theirs. The issue centers on gifts that state legislators receive from lobbyists.

Unofficial results from the Georgia secretary of state’s elections website showed powerful support on both sides of the aisle for curtailing those gifts.

In the Republican primary, the question was phrased this way: Do you support ending the current practice of unlimited gifts from lobbyists to state legislators by imposing a $100 cap on such gifts?

Of the 944,616 voters who cast a vote on that question, the vast majority, 823,874, said that they wanted the gifts capped at $100. That was just over 87.2 percent of those voters, nearly nine out of every 10.

Democratic Party voters were asked a more open-ended question: Do you support ending the current practice permitting unlimited gifts from lobbyists to state legislator?

Democrats weren’t quite as adamant as GOP voters, though they were overwhelmingly in favor of gift restrictions. Of the 580,361 Democratic voters who answered the question, 420,864, or slightly more than 72.5 percent, favored eliminating unlimited lobbyist gifts. That translates to a little more than seven out of every 10 voters who chose the Democratic Party ticket.

Whether a $100 limit is as practical as it seems at first blush would take some research, but state legislators received what can only be seen as a mandate from the voters. They want controls in place — strong controls — when it comes to money flowing from lobbyists to lawmakers. We’d be surprised if legislators failed to take some action in that direction during the 2013 General Assembly.

Lawmakers also found out that most voters — Republicans, at least — don’t like the idea of registering a party affiliation a month before party primary elections. Of the 938,493 GOP voters who answered that question, 501,025 — 53.4 percent — said no thanks to the registration. Democrats didn’t address the issue.

We agree with the majority of voters on this. While we imagine the impetus behind the legislation is to prevent strategic crossover voting by those who consider themselves aligned with the opposing party, the fact is that Georgia’s emergence from the single-party state of yesteryear means it’s even more important these days for voters to have flexibility in this area.

Not that long ago, most areas of the state didn’t have anyone running as a Republican. A voter either took a Democratic ballot or, essentially, disenfranchised himself or herself.

Now, the GOP dominates state offices. On local levels, however, voters often have to choose between Democratic and GOP ballots, depending on who is running locally and what the local political concerns are. Also quite often, the decision on which ballot to choose isn’t firm until the voter walks into the polling place.

Party bosses might like the idea of 30-day party registration, but we think voters like the system the way it is now. This is a case of it’s not broken, so there’s no reason to fix it.