Friday, November 14, 2008

Georgia Senate Election Certified

There will be a runoff between Saxby Chambliss and Jim Martin. [Now, there's a shock!]

Early voting for the December 2 runoff will start as early as Monday (November 17) in some counties and no later than Wednesday (November 19) according to Secretary of State Karen Handel's press release yesterday.

One other interesting fact about the rules behind the runoff system in Georgia is that when the 50% plus one vote threshold was reapplied to statewide races in 2005, the interim period between the general election and the runoff election was expanded from three weeks to four weeks. I suspect that is due in large part to the potential for overlap with the Thanksgiving holiday, but I can't verify that. One thing is for sure, the advance voting week will fall during Thanksgiving week and has been condensed from five days to just three as a result.

What's the difference between early and advance voting, you ask? Well, in Georgia it seems to boil down to a matter of the number of voting locations. Early voting is confined to one location per county but over an extended period of time (September 22-October 31 for the November 4 election), whereas advance voting has a greater number of polling places in the larger counties during just the business week (Monday -Friday) prior to the election.

Some of Jim Martin's success in the general election was dependent upon early and advance voting and that was driven in large part by the efforts of the Obama campaign to get out the (early) vote in Georgia. We have talked about Obama as a wildcard in this runoff race, but whether he appears in Georgia between now and December 2 -- John McCain and Mike Huckabee have already lined up stops to campaign for Chambliss -- may not matter as much as the remnants of the Obama campaign's infrastructure in Georgia (and from workers pouring into the state from other locales) banking those early votes for Martin as they did for Obama prior to November 4.

Question for the comments section: What impact might that extra week between elections have on the outcome? I can see it going both ways: the enthusiasm behind Martin dies down or another unintended consequence of the GOP-driven law change -- more time for Martin to mobilize -- coming back to haunt them. Thoughts?

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Jack said...

I'm Jack - just decided to switch to the name I've been using on DemConWatch lately. Avoids confusion on blogs with multiple Jacks.

This election might well be determined by which is more effective: celebrities such as McCain coming down to Georgia, or Obama's grassroots operation. I'd suspect the latter.

This would suggest that Martin would benefit from the extra week.

MSS said...

I don't know the answer to your question, but it is a good one. In the comparative study of runoffs (something I have worked a bit on), I don't think anyone has ever attempted to consider the impact of the time between rounds. It is quite variable, from the February-November period we have had here in California this year (for some local, officially nonpartisan offices) to two weeks. The shorter periods are typical of French elections. Most Latin American presidencies that are elected under runoff provisions have a one-month gap.

Does it matter? I wish I knew!

What I am pretty sure about is that this would be close to the record (and maybe would be the record) for a "late collapse" (to use a sports metaphor) if the candidate with 49.8% in the first round were to lose the runoff. Martin is 3 points behind, and when he is chasing someone who is less than one tenth as far as he is from the winning threshold, that's quite a climb.

Obviously the big variable here is turnout. But then you already knew that.

MSS said...

Correction to my previous post. Any nonpartisan local offices this year in California that had to be decided in a November runoff would have had their first round in June, not February.

Of course, June to November is still a very long time. And back in 2000, it would have been March to November (there having been no June primary that year).

Jack said...

If Begich and Franken win, or are at least remain unclear, by the time the runoff takes place, how much does that hurt Martin? I know the whole "Liberal Democrats are going to have total control" thing hasn't worked so far, but perhaps in Georgia it would, no matter how much Martin says he won't be a rubber stamp for Obama?

Anonymous said...

If Chambliss's ads any indication, they are trying to play that "runaway Congress"card. If I can find the video of it I'll post it. It is similar to one the Chambliss folks ran earlier on Martin and Obama's tax plans. But now they've got an Obama picture and playing that connection up. If that sort of charge gains traction (and I can see that if the Alaska race continues on its current trajectory), an Obama visit may end up being detrimental to Martin.

I might try and record the ad and post it. I'll have plenty of opportunities from the looks of it. Chambliss has dropped some money on these repeated ads during football today.

MSS said...

I looked on You Tube for the ad mentioned here, but could not locate it.

However, the ad invoking John McCain in support of Martin (well, actually Cleland, but cleverly elided), is pretty interesting.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I haven't been able to track that Chambliss ad down yet. They stopped about the time I had everything at the ready to record. However, along with this Cleland ad, Martin has one with Chambliss in a "Read my lips," "fundamentals of the economy" moment. That one is online and I'll post it momentarily.

Jack said...

Is that the one posted on DCW?