Back in the good old days, rural counties totally controlled our state government. The system they used was known as the “County Unit System.” The system was inaugurated in 1917.
At the time, Georgia was essentially a one-party state composed of conservative Democrats. The Democrats used the county unit system to control their primary elections. Under the system, the eight most populous counties had six votes each for a total of 48 electoral primary votes. The next 30 had 4 votes each for a total of 120. The next 121 had two votes each for a total of 242.
Once the primary was over, there were no opposing candidates, and the election generally ended with the candidates who won the primaries wiping out the few Republican who dared to run. The result was that urban counties didn’t stand a chance when it came to selecting a state-wide official.
Georgia was not the only state to have a county unit system, and by 1960, the system was being challenged. The landmark case of Baker v. Carr, ruled in 1962 that the Tennessee voting districts did not give equal weight to all voters across the state. Baker v. Carr and the cases that followed ushered in the “one man, one vote,” rule which eventually let to the demise of the Georgia county unit system in Gray v. Sanders, 372 U.S. 368 (1963).
Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote many of the decisions requiring court redistricting. Signs on billboards and the sides of barns sprang up all over the south urging Congress to impeach Earl Warren.
Those same sentiments are with us today. A brief glance at an electoral map shows that our population centers are blue and the rural counties are red. In 2020, state-wide elections showed that some red states were turning blue because of the urban vote. In response, 47 states with majority Republican legislatures have decided to nip that situation in the bud.
The very fact that those legislatures are majority Republican is that most of their rural counties vote “R.” For that reason, the Republicans fear the state-wide vote which includes the urban areas. That’s the voter pool from which our Secretaries of State, our Governors, our appellate judges and other state-wide officers are elected.
So while we are correctly looking at the changes to voting qualifications, voting hours and polling places, we need also to be concerned about the changes to the Board of Elections and the power of state committees to replace a local voting official if they don’t like what they see.
No longer is the popularly-elected Secretary of State the one who certifies the election results. The guy who did that in 2020 was too honest. Now, the legislature controls who sits on the board and who certifies the elections. An officer elected state-wide might, God forbid, be a Democrat. It’s fortunate for the Republicans that our Republican Governor did not have the integrity to veto the bill.
And guess who’s running for Georgia Secretary of State? None other than Rev. Jody Hice, a man who has proven willing to overthrow any popular vote that does not suit his comrades.
The excuse for this thinly-disguised attempt to restore rural county rule? According to the bill’s sponsors, 55 percent of Georgians don’t believe that our election system is secure.
Wonder who published that lie?