Now that the final election totals are in, let’s look at a couple of Georgia’s voting trends.
One of the most definitive results of election night was the overwhelming rejection of Gov. Nathan Deal’s “Opportunity School District” involving a state takeover of low-performing schools.
Voters obviously did not like the idea of the state assuming the power to control their schools and grab the local taxes that go along with those schools. The “no” votes against Amendment 1 amounted to nearly 60 percent, and the margin of defeat was just under 800,000 votes.
This was an issue where Republicans and Democrats found common ground.
Democratic-leaning counties that contained low-performing schools subject to takeover such as Fulton, DeKalb and Clayton voted strongly against the amendment.
What was amazing was the rejection of the Deal takeover plan among solidly Republican counties that had voted twice to elect him as governor.
Cherokee County is one of the state’s strongest Republican counties, but it is also where the school board passed a resolution opposing the measure. One of the most outspoken opponents of the school takeover plan was Georgia PTA President Lisa-Marie Haygood, who’s from Cherokee.
Cherokee and other Republican metro counties like Forsyth, Fayette, Paulding, Coweta and Hall voted against Amendment 1.
That same level of opposition also cropped up in virtually every county outside the metro area. Just a random look at the results shows the amendment losing in counties like Jackson, Dawson, Barrow, Thomas, Grady, Bryan, Effingham, Liberty, Bulloch, Candler, Wayne, Pierce, Rabun, Whitfield and Oglethorpe.
You often hear Georgia legislators talk about their devotion to the concept of local control. Many of them don’t really mean it, of course — just look at the bills they pass every session to pre-empt local governments from acting on specified issues.
In this instance, however, the voters spoke loudly and clearly. When it comes to running their own schools, they really do believe in local control.
The election returns also indicated that despite the long-running speculation that Georgia might be on the way to becoming a “blue” state or a “purple” state, it still remains very much a “red” state.
The speculation is stoked by the very real trend that the percentage of white registered voters is slowly but steadily decreasing while the percentage of black, Latino and Asian voters increases.
This trend affected some Atlanta-area counties with a long history of voting Republican that went for the Democrat in this presidential election.
Cobb voted for Mitt Romney by 38,000 votes in 2012, but went for Hillary Clinton by a 7,000-vote margin. Gwinnett flipped from supporting Romney by 27,000 to supporting Clinton by 19,000. Henry went for Romney by 3,000 votes four years ago, but flipped to giving Clinton a 4,000-vote advantage in this election.
Those are significant changes and reflect the growing diversity of those counties’ populations. But in other metro counties like Hall, Forsyth, Coweta, Paulding and Cherokee, the margin of support for the Republican presidential candidate was about the same this year as it was in the last presidential election.
The same trend held on a statewide level. In 2008, John McCain carried Georgia by a margin of 204,636 votes over Barack Obama. The percentage split was 52-47 percent.
Eight years later, Donald Trump carried Georgia by a margin of 211,151 votes over Hillary Clinton. The percentage split was 51-46 percent.
Despite the loss of thousands of white voters and the addition of many nonwhite voters during that eight-year period, the Republican presidential candidate actually carried Georgia by a slightly larger number of raw votes this time around. The percentage difference was about the same at five points.
Republicans also maintained their control over state government. Every statewide elected officer is a Republican, and the GOP holds close to a two-thirds advantage in both chambers of the General Assembly.
The explanation for this is simple. In Georgia, as in other states, white voters usually do a better job of turning out on election day. The more the percentage of nonwhite voters increases, the more determined white voters are to get out and vote.
That makes a big difference, especially in off-year elections. That’s why Georgia will likely continue to be a red state for the next few election cycles.
Tom Crawford is editor of The Georgia Report.