Judicial races in Georgia are among those commonly referred to as "down-ballot" elections.
That's because, literally, they're down toward the end of the ballot. By the time voters get that far into the process, many of them don't even bother to vote. Or they just start picking the first name on the list.
That's what happened in the Nov. 2 general election. In Columbia County, 7,000 fewer voters cast a ballot for the Georgia Supreme Court race than in the governor's race. Statewide, nearly half a million fewer voters made picks at the end of the ballot.
That's why Georgia voters are being asked to come back to the polls on Tuesday. They haven't finished the job.
Incumbent Georgia Supreme Court Justice David Nahmias is "a great American success story," in the words of Augusta attorney and general all-around great guy David Hudson.
Hudson also happens to be our attorney, and a man to whom it is decidedly in my favor to keep happy in case I need his help getting the paper out of trouble. More importantly, though, he's someone whose judgment on judicial matters is above reproach.
In the case of Nahmias, we're talking about a man who was No. 2 in his class at Duke, then graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law. He then clerked for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington, D.C., circuit, and for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
Nahmias went into private practice in a firm where he was recruited by now-Chief Justice John Roberts. Then he served as a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Atlanta, and went to the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., where he coordinated investigations and prosecutions in the 9/11 attacks. Then he was appointed U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia until Gov. Sonny Perdue named him to the Georgia Supreme Court last year after Leah Sears Collins' retirement.
In short, the guy has been around the legal block.
But. His name was near the end of the ballot, in a race with two other candidates. Nahmias fell just short of the 50-percent-plus-one figure to win outright, and is on Tuesday's very-short runoff ballot against Tammy Lynn Adkins.
Who, you might ask, is Tammy Lynn Adkins?
Well, she's an Atlanta attorney. She didn't raise any money for the race. She didn't spend any. She didn't actually campaign. But she came in second, and is in the runoff against an incumbent with an overwhelmingly superior legal resume, because she has one thing Nahmias doesn't:
Her last name starts with an "A."
Yep. There were three candidates in the race, and by virtue of alphabetical order her name appeared first. (The third-place finisher's name was Matt Wilson, doomed by a low draw in the alphabet.)
What, exactly, does it say about voters that two people with such vastly different credentials could wind up in a face-off merely because the name of one of them appears first on a list?
It says several things. It says the major media don't take these races seriously enough, especially when all their attention is focused on a "bigger" race, like the governor's.
It says that despite their indignant protests to the contrary, many voters really do want to be told who to vote for because they aren't going to take the time to figure it out for themselves.
And it says that the Tea Party-driven blind anger this election season at anyone with "incumbent" after their name also can be pretty damagingly stupid.
"On the Supreme Court, Justice Nahmias has distinguished himself with the high caliber of his scholarship and decision-making," Hudson says. "It would be a terrible loss to our state if he is not re-elected."
Especially if that loss comes merely because of voters playing eenie-meenie-minie-moe. Aren't we supposed to be smarter than that?
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail email@example.com. Follow at twitter.com/barrypaschal.)
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