Voters in the May 22 Democratic primary can weigh in on gun control, Medicaid expansion, the drawing of political district boundaries, and mass transit investment.
The Georgia Democratic Party is asking voters to choose yes or no to four questions on the ballot:
-- Should the sale and distribution of bump stocks be prohibited in the state of Georgia?
-- Should Georgia pull down our federal tax dollars to save rural hospitals and create more than fifty thousand jobs by expanding Medicaid?
-- Should Georgia allow voters to elect our own representatives by amending our Constitution to place the power of drawing district lines under the authority of an independent, non-partisan commission?
-- Should Georgia alleviate traffic congestion, reduce carbon emissions, and better connect communities by investing a substantial amount of existing tax dollars in mass transit?
Answers to the questions will determine how the party proposes legislation going forward.
The bump stocks question addresses the ongoing gun control debate.
Bump stocks – attachments that make a semi-automatic weapon like an AR-15 rifle shoot nearly as fast as fully automatic machine guns – have been used in mass shootings. There is widespread bipartisan support for restricting them from civilian use and states such as New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and California have declared them illegal.
Moves are also afoot to do the same in Florida, Vermont, Hawaii, Maryland and Washington.
In the wake of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla., President Donald Trump has also instructed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to issue regulations to treat bump stocks as machine guns, effectively banning them in the U.S. under federal law.
“We will ban all devices that turn legal weapons into illegal machine guns,” Trump said March 23.
The ATF issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on March 29 with a 90-day public comment period. If the rule becomes final, people would be required to destroy or surrender existing devices.
In April, the holder of the bump stock patent – Slide Fire Solutions – announced it would cease production of bump stocks on May 20, though they did not state whether this was a temporary or permanent measure.
The healthcare question is seeking directions from voters on Georgia’s long-standing reluctance to expand Medicaid, the largest funding source for medical and health-related services for low-income people. As of 2017, Medicaid is providing free health insurance to 74 million low-income and disabled people.
As a means-tested program, Medicaid is jointly funded by state and federal governments, and managed by states which determine eligibility.
DuBose Porter, Democratic Party state chairman, says five rural hospitals in Georgia have closed since 2013 due to a lack of funding, and scores more operate under the threat of closure.
“More than 300,000 Georgians live without health insurance, we have one of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates, and we rank 49th in Medicaid spending per enrollee,” Porter said Jan. 10, in response to Gov. Nathan Deal’s State of the State address.
If Georgia expands Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, Porter said the state would reap benefits including “slashed uninsured rates, saved tax dollars and, more importantly, saved lives.”
In Georgia, congressional and state district lines are drawn by the state legislature, leading to partisan gerrymandering of boundaries to favor the party in power. The district lines ballot question is testing the waters for an independent, nonpartisan commission to assume that role.
Porter says an independent authority doing this job is in the best interest of voters.
“The dangers posed in gerrymandering know no party affiliation and silence the voice of voters,” he said March 1. “Together, both parties can lead by example.”
The mass transit question is tapping into the passionate conversations underway in many communities including DeKalb, where residents have supported MARTA with their tax dollars for decades with very little new investment into the county.
Early voting for the May 22 elections ended May 18, with more than 13,200 votes cast in DeKalb.
The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on election day.