Georgia voters weren’t given the chance to make their voices heard two years ago when their legislators voted to change the state flag. They may get a chance, however, with Gov. Sonny Perdue now in office.
Perdue, Georgia’s first Republican governor in 130 years, appealed to rural white voters while campaigning by promising such a referendum, the New York Times reported. And now that he is in office, Perdue is ready to raise the flag issue again.
A flag vote “is the only way Georgia can move on,” Perdue told the Times. “It’s like a family secret. The only way to heal this is with the sunshine of coming together and dealing with it in a very forthright approach. That’s why I committed to a referendum.”
The problem, analysts fear, is that it is likely that voters would want to return to flying the old state flag, which displayed a prominent Confederate cross.
“If the Confederate battle flag rises again above Georgia, it would be the first time since the civil rights movement that a Southern state has resurrected a symbol so painful to many,” read the Times article. “Some here say it could also crush the already-wobbly economy of Atlanta, the South’s most prosperous city.”
Whether they want to fly the old state flag or not, many taxpayers aren’t willing to foot the bill for the referendum.
In DeKalb County alone, election officials said the referendum could cost taxpayers $400,000.
All 29 of DeKalb County’s lawmakers in the House and Senate oppose the referendum, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
The referendum would be non-binding. Enabling voters to have a final say on the flag issue would require a constitutional amendment and could take several years to get to the polls, according to the Journal-Constitution.
The earliest the referendum could be scheduled is Nov. 4, when cities hold their municipal elections.
Jodi Mathews is BCE’s communications director.