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Primary ballot questions are self-fulfilling, nonbinding
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School vouchers have long been a policy prize for Republicans, and now the proposal is getting new life on the May 24 primary ballot.

Whether tax dollars allotted to a student’s public education should be transferable to a private institution is a nonbinding question to voters, meaning it has no direct bearing on state law.

But polling on the subject could be used as ammunition to introduce a bill next year, according to University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock.

Republicans see vouchers as a natural fix to ailing schools and struggling parents. Democrats tend to see it as a violation of church and state.

“The answers to these things are preordained,” Bullock said. But it does give “a chance to register your opinion.”

Bullock said state Republicans started adding questions to primary ballots to gauge voter interest in an issue about 20 years ago when the GOP was the minority party in Georgia.

It was seen then as a way to persuade voters to choose a Republican ballot over a Democratic ballot in primary elections.

The Democrats have taken cue, lobbing several questions onto their own ballot this year. It poses several questions to voters compared with just the one for Republicans.

The biggest one, perhaps, may give insight into the chances Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposed Opportunity School District has of passing in the general election.

That ballot referendum, if approved, would amend the Constitution and allow the state to take over “failing” schools.

Republicans tend to support the proposal, placed on the November ballot after clearing a vote in the General Assembly last year, while Democrats oppose it.

The Democratic ballot also asks whether voters think the state should expand Medicaid rolls; approve paid family leave; automatically register voters when they receive a driver’s license; and raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

The questions on both ballots are often written in simpler, more leading terms than language found on general election referendums.

Democrats, now in the minority, are hoping it draws voters to their ballot in May.

“What they are doing ... is hoping to build for the future,” Bullock said.