Federal Judge Steven C. Jones has moved up the federal primary election date to May 20, 2014, in Georgia. That way Memorial Day weekend won't interfere with early voting -- which should increase turnout.
The Georgia General Assembly is expected to follow suit and schedule earlier state election dates to match the federal calendar, because it wouldn't make sense for counties to pay for two election cycles.
Some Republican strategists figure earlier elections and greater turnout will dilute the power of conservative activists who vote no matter when the primary is held and might elect a Republican U.S. Senate candidate who would lose to a Democrat in 2014.
"The mid-May date [has been] eyed by many Republicans as a means of reducing the influence of hardcore conservative activists and tea party elements in the GOP," Atlanta Journal-Constitution pundit Jim Galloway wrote on his "Political Insider" blog. "Many GOP strategists fear a field of Senate candidates moving too far right will give Democrats an opening next year."
Republicans are especially wary of Democratic contender Michelle Nunn, the daughter of former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn, according to The Christian Science Monitor.
"Republicans, including Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, have fretted that she could get a big boost if a primary or runoff candidate turns out to be someone like U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, a hard-liner from Athens, Ga., who once denounced the theory of evolution as a lie 'from the pit of hell,'" the newspaper said an article posted Wednesday.
Jones, who is U.S. district judge for the Northern District of Georgia, previously ordered Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp to move up the federal primary election to June 3, 2014, so those in the military and expatriates would have more time to return absentee ballots.
But Kemp instead asked Jones to move the primary two weeks earlier, to May 20, 2014, to avoid the Memorial Day weekend. Early voting takes place during the three weeks before the primary, including the one Saturday when polls are open 11 days before the Tuesday primary.
"Basically, the Saturday voting would fall on the Memorial Day weekend [without the change]," Kemp's communications coordinator Cody Whitlock said.
Walker County, Ga., Elections Supervisor Barbara Berry isn't convinced the earlier primary will bring out more voters.
"It's possible that it will," Berry said. "We just have to wait and see."
Contact Tim Omarzu at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6651.
Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.