The U.S. Justice Department this week approved a law giving Georgia’s secretary of state the power to set presidential primary dates.
The approval puts the state in the middle of a national battle for power and influence. Georgia officials want the state to hold earlier primaries to gain more influence on presidential elections.
However, Republican Party rules allow only Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina to have early primaries. Any other states could lose delegates at the Republican convention if they vote before March.
Yet Arizona, Michigan, Florida and a few other states are considering dates in January and February. And Secretary of State Brian Kemp has said he wants Georgia to be among the early primary states.
“If you were able to get that national media coverage and you were able to get Georgians on the national news talking to major presidential candidates, you’re going to take a hit maybe in your delegation at the convention, but that’s an acceptable tradeoff to a lot of states,” said Kerwin Swint, a political science professor at Kennesaw State University. “The convention isn’t that important these days anyway.”
Swint said the presidential nominee is pretty much decided by Super Tuesday in March, when a dozen or so states typically have primaries. So early primary states do have more influence.
Brian Kemp has said he would like to put Georgia’s vote before Super Tuesday.
Swint also said voting earlier in Georgia could bump up turnout for the presidential primary.
“The more important a vote is, the more important you feel it is, the more likely you’re gonna go vote,” Swint sad. “So I think [voting] earlier could have a positive impact on turnout.”
Kemp has to decide by December when the 2012 primary will be.