1942 Georgia gubernatorial election

The 1942 Georgia gubernatorial election took place on November 3, 1942, in order to elect the governor of Georgia. The governor was elected to a four-year term for the first time, instead of a two-year term.

1942 Georgia Democratic gubernatorial primary

← 1940 September 9, 1942 1946 →

410 county unit votes
206 unit votes needed to win
Nominee Ellis Arnall Eugene Talmadge
Party Democratic Democratic
Electoral vote 261 149
Popular vote 174,757 128,399
Percentage 57.65% 42.35%

County results
Arnall:      50-60%      60-70%      70-80%      80-90%
Talmadge:      50-60%      60-70%      70-80%      80-90%

Governor before election

Eugene Talmadge

Elected Governor

Ellis Arnall

Incumbent Democratic Governor Eugene Talmadge was defeated in the Democratic primary.

As was common at the time, the Democratic candidate ran with only token opposition in the general election so therefore the Democratic primary was the real contest, and winning the primary was considered tantamount to election.

Democratic primary


The Democratic primary election was held on September 9, 1942. As there were only two candidates, there was no run-off.

County unit system


From 1917 until 1962, the Democratic Party in the U.S. state of Georgia used a voting system called the county unit system to determine victors in statewide primary elections.[1]

The system was ostensibly designed to function similarly to the Electoral College, but in practice the large ratio of unit votes for small, rural counties to unit votes for more populous urban areas provided outsized political influence to the smaller counties.[2][3]

Under the county unit system, the 159 counties in Georgia were divided by population into three categories. The largest eight counties were classified as "Urban", the next-largest 30 counties were classified as "Town", and the remaining 121 counties were classified as "Rural". Urban counties were given 6 unit votes, Town counties were given 4 unit votes, and Rural counties were given 2 unit votes, for a total of 410 available unit votes. Each county's unit votes were awarded on a winner-take-all basis.[2][3]

Candidates were required to obtain a majority of unit votes (not necessarily a majority of the popular vote), or 206 total unit votes, to win the election. If no candidate received a majority in the initial primary, a runoff election was held between the top two candidates to determine a winner.[4]




CandidatePopular voteCounty unit vote
Ellis Arnall174,75757.6526163.66
Eugene Talmadge128,39942.3514936.34
Source: [5][6][7]

General election


In the general election, Arnall faced token opposition.


1942 Georgia gubernatorial election[8][9][10][11]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Ellis Arnall 62,220 96.30%
Write-in D. Talmadge Bowers 1,701 2.63%
Write-in J. N. Foreman 687 1.06%
Turnout 64,608 100.00%
Democratic hold Swing


  1. ^ "County Unit System". Georgia County Clerks Association. Archived from the original on May 31, 2008. Retrieved June 8, 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Eugene Talmadge". The Jim Crow Encyclopedia. The African American Experience. Archived from the original on January 23, 2015. Retrieved August 12, 2013.
  3. ^ a b "County Unit System, eh?". Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies. October 6, 2011. Retrieved June 8, 2020.
  4. ^ Buchanan, Scott (June 13, 2017). "County Unit System". New Georgia Encyclopedia. Retrieved June 8, 2020.
  5. ^ Congressional Quarterly 1998, p. 107.
  6. ^ "GA Governor, 1942 - D Primary". Our Campaigns. Retrieved June 17, 2020.
  7. ^ Georgia Register 1943, pp. 653–656.
  8. ^ Congressional Quarterly 1998, p. 48.
  9. ^ "GA Governor, 1942". Our Campaigns. Retrieved June 17, 2020.
  10. ^ Glashan 1979, pp. 68–69.
  11. ^ Georgia Register 1943, pp. 688–691.


  • Gubernatorial Elections, 1787-1997. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Inc. 1998. ISBN 1-56802-396-0.
  • Glashan, Roy R. (1979). American Governors and Gubernatorial Elections, 1775-1978. Meckler Books. ISBN 0-930466-17-9.
  • Compiled by Mrs. J.E. Hays, State Historian and Director (1943). Georgia's Official Register, 1939-1941-1943 (PDF). Atlanta, GA: State of Georgia, Department of Archives and History.