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Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - 10:41am

Special Elections See Low Turnout

After Christmas sales may be cutting into the number of voters participating in early voting for three special elections. Three seats are open in the General Assembly, with an election day of January 8th.

Several counties, including Fulton, Grady, Colquitt and Decatur, are reporting low turnout for early voting. Officials say they saw four to five times the number of voters cast a ballot during the same period in advance of the November election.

Ten counties across the state are involved. UGA political science professor Charles Bullock expects lots of confusion for these special elections. He says as a result of redistricting, only portions of some of the counties will vote in the special election.

He says “You may not even be aware that your part of the county is voting. Or there may be some instances in which a person sees yard signs advertising a candidate and tries to go vote. But they’re turned away because their polling place isn’t open because they’re on the other side of the line that divides the county.”

Voting in Seminole County started Wednesday. Miller County starts Thursday.

Two republicans are battling for the Senate seat in District 21 so that won’t impact the balance of power in the legislature. But there are democrats, independents and republicans running for both the District 11 Senate seat and the House seat in District 21.

Bullock says if republicans lose those seats, that could threaten a supermajority GOP leaders have worked for through redistricting.

“ Because in the Senate there’s just barely a two-thirds majority. And in the House, actually the elections left republicans one seat short of that 120 votes that they would need.” he says.

A supermajority would allow republicans to offer changes to the state constitution without Democratic support.

Bullock says after the November election, republicans were close to a supermajority in the state House. But he says these elections could change that.

“The one independent in the House often does vote with republicans. And to the extent that he did, that would give them the two-thirds. But if they were to lose an additional seat there, that is more than having to hope that the independent sides with the republicans. They’d have to try to pick up one or more democrats.”he says.

Another special election will be held February 5th for the House seat in District 71. It’s unclear which candidates will run for that seat.