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Primary is party time for voters
Ballots are for Democrats, Republicans only in Tuesdays nominating election
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Election coverage
Tuesday: Gainesville’s Nathan Deal takes a final tour of Georgia in his bid for the GOP nomination.
Wednesday: Complete coverage of Tuesday’s primary results, locally and statewide, and what comes next.

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Hall County sample ballots

 The Times' full elections coverage

With less than a week until the primary elections, Joe Spence was one of those “undecided” voters.

Spence, an 80-year-old Sugar Hill resident, told The Times on Wednesday that the biggest decision would be whether to request a Democratic or Republican ballot.

Voters who go to the polls Tuesday will choose to vote for solely Democratic candidates or Republicans running for one of the many statewide, local and legislative offices.

“It’s kind of a tricky situation,” said Spence. “... There might be one on both sides you want to vote for.”

While deciding for Spence can be tricky, it never fails that other voters are confused by the primary’s voting process, said Charlotte Sosebee, interim elections superintendent for Hall County.

“There’s numbers of people who don’t quite understand that they can’t vote in-between parties,” Sosebee said. “... Every primary’s like that. I think people just tend to forget.”

Hall County’s ballots have more contested races on the Republican ticket than the Democratic ticket, Sosebee said. During early voting, the number of Republican ballots cast in the county far exceeded the Democratic ones.

A few hours before early voting ended Friday, 317 Democratic ballots had been cast in the county. More than 2,700 voters had cast Republican ballots, Sosebee said.

Daniel Franklin, associate professor of political science at Georgia State University, says voters tend to stick to their usual parties in primary elections, even if there are not as many contested races on that ballot.

“There’s very little strategic voting in primaries — when I say strategic voting, for example, Democrats trying to find out who the stupidest, worst choice is on the Republican side and going over on the Republican side and voting — that almost never happens in significant numbers,” Franklin said. “In terms of choosing which primary to vote in, voters generally go with their partisan preference.”

On tickets with lots of assumed winners and little competition, Franklin said turnout will be low. He uses the state’s widely discussed gubernatorial race as an example. Republican candidates have been in the limelight while little has been said about the Democratic primary, where many polls suggest former Gov. Roy Barnes will win without a runoff.

“Think of it in terms of cost-benefit analysis,” Franklin said. “The payoff for voting in the Democratic primary — unless you have some interest in the down ticket races and most people don’t — the payoff is if you’re a Roy Barnes supporter he’s going to win. If you’re a Roy Barnes opponent, you’re going to lose. So as long as it looks like Roy Barnes is a shoo-in, the only affect it will really have is on turnout.”

But as long as the results for the Republican gubernatorial primary are an uncertainty, the chance of Republican voters showing up at the polls is much higher, Franklin said.

“The payoff is higher,” said Franklin. “The payoff being the chance that your vote can actually influence the outcome.”