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This Day in Georgia History

August 14, 1917

County Unit System Created

Gov. Hugh Dorsey signed legislation creating the county unit system, a special formula for determining the winner of statewide races in political party primaries. Similar to the concept of the electoral college, primary races for statewide office were not determined by the total vote in the state but rather on a county-by-county basis. The winner of a particular race in a county got all of that county’s “unit” votes, which was based on the number of legislators a county had in the state House of Representatives. At the time, Georgia law provided that the eight most populated counties had six representatives. The thirty next largest counties had four representatives. The remaining 121 counties had two representatives. Continuing until 1962, when a federal court declared it unconstitutional, the county unit system was designed to keep political power from shifting from rural areas to growing urban centers (particularly Atlanta).