ATLANTA — Georgia voters on Tuesday approved an amendment to the state constitution that gives a state commission the power to authorize public charter schools upon the request of communities.
Under the amendment, which appeared headed toward approval with more than 58 percent of voters casting ballots in favor of the measure, the State Charter Schools Commission would have the power to review charter school petitions and “ensure that charter schools are consistent with state educational goals,” according to Gov. Nathan Deal’s office.
The Georgia General Assembly voted earlier this year in favor of putting the amendment to voters. State legislators moved for an amendment after the Georgia Supreme Court in May 2011 ruled 4-3 in favor of seven school districts that challenged the constitutionality of a previous incarnation of a commission created through legislation.
Proponents of the amendment argued the measure gives parents more control over school choice and will help improve student performance. Opponents say it erodes local control over schools, ceding that power to the state commission.
Unlike many issues, opposition and support for the amendment didn’t break according to party lines. While Deal, a Republican, supported the charter school amendment, state schools Superintendent John Barge, also a Republican, opposed the measure.
The charter school question was one of two constitutional amendments facing Georgia voters. Peach State voters also passed a second amendment to allow state agencies should be allowed to enter into multi-year leases, a proposition proponents say will allow the state to save millions of dollars annually on leased property.
As expected, the state’s electorate favored Mitt Romney for president. Romney picked up roughly 53 percent of the vote to President Obama’s 45 percent. Libertarian Gary Johnson picked up just more than 1 percent of the vote.
In the state’s most visible congressional race, U.S. Rep. John Barrow, a moderate Democrat, turned back a challenge from Republican Lee Anderson, picking up nearly 54 percent of the vote. Republicans in Georgia and nationwide had hoped to knock off Barrow to bolster their lead in Congress.
In another noteworthy race, Republican Doug Collins, a former state legislator, defeated Democrat Jody Cooley by a 3-1 margin in a newly created district that covers portions of Northeast Georgia.
In Congressional races statewide, incumbents ruled the day (percentages are based on returns as of 12:15 a.m. Wednesday):
— U.S. Rep. Tom Price, a Republican incumbent who represents portions of Metro Atlanta’s northern suburbs, cruised to victory over Democrat Jeff Kazanow. Price picked up about 64 percent of the vote.
— U.S. Rep. David Scott, a Democrat incumbent who represents southern and western Metro Atlanta, handily won re-election to a sixth term in Congress over Republican challenger Shahid Malik. Scott netted more than 71 percent of the vote.
— U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, a Democrat representing the eastern Metro Atlanta suburbs, turned back a challenge from Republican Chris Vaughn to win a fourth term in the U.S. House of Representatives. Johnson netted about 74 percent of the vote.
— Longtime U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a Democrat who represents in town Atlanta, fended off a challenge from Republican Howard Stopeck, earning 85 percent of the vote.
— U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, a South Georgia Democrat incumbent, won an 11th term in the U.S. House of Representatives, defeating Republican John House. More than 61 percent of voters in the district cast ballots for Bishop.
— U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey, a Republican who also represents the northwestern Metro Atlanta suburbs and the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta, defeated Democrat Patrick Thompson, picking up more than 68 percent of the vote.
— U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, a Republican representing North Georgia, turned back a challenge from Democrat Danny Grant en route to a second term in Congress. Graves picked up nearly 73 percent of the vote.
— U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, a Republican who represents coastal Georgia south of Savannah, knocked off Democrat Lesli Messinger on his way to an 11th term in the U.S. House of Representatives. Kingston earned 63 percent of the ballots cast.
— U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, a Republican whose district includes the northeastern Metro Atlanta suburbs, knocked off Democrat Steve Reilly to earn a second term in Congress. Woodall garnered more than 62 percent of the vote.
— U.S. Reps. Lynn Westmoreland, Austin Scott and Paul Broun, all Republican incumbents, were unopposed.