County Unit System


County Unit System

The County Unit System was used by the U.S. state of Georgia to determine a victor in its primary elections.

Each county was given a certain number of votes and the candidate who received the highest number of votes in that county won all their 'unit votes', under a form of block voting. A candidate had to have a majority of county unit votes to win and if no candidate received a majority, then a run-off election would be held between the top two finishers.

There were 410 County unit votes. The eight most populous counties had six unit votes each (a total of 48), the next thirty most populous counties had four votes each (a total of 120) and the remaining 121 counties had two votes each (a total of 242). The counties with two votes therefore had a majority of the votes, despite only making up one-third of the population in 1962 when the system was abolished by the courts.

Eugene Talmadge's 1946 primary victory was due to the Unit system. Talmadge lost to James V. Carmichael by 16,000 votes but won the election since he received 244 county unit votes, as opposed to 144 for Carmichael.

In 1963, the county unit system was declared unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court in its "Gray v. Sanders" decision. The Supreme Court found that the system violated the 'one man, one vote' principle. The Federal District Court for the District of North Georgia had previously enjoined the state from using the county unit system in the spring of 1962 and had instead instituted a statewide preferential primary. The gubernatorial primary was won by Sen. Carl Sanders over former Governor Marvin Griffin (a Talmadge-machine backed candidate).

External links

* [http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-1381 New Georgia Encyclopedia Article]
* [http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=372&invol=368 Gray v. Sanders] Full text of the Supreme Court decision ending the County Unit System


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