Georgia’s top elections official urged lawmakers on Wednesday to end the election— this month’s bitter Senate contest was the latest example — but made no specific proposals, saying there are “a wide range of options.”
The push by Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to drop the unusual format for the general election came after high-profile Senate races this year and 2020 went into overtime, with Democrats winning each time. Democrat Raphael Warnock has won the runoff twice, including hisOn GOP challenger Herschel Walker. Warnock’s victory secures his first six-year term for 51 seats in the Senate.
Raffensperger said in a statement that Georgia is “one of those states that always seems to runoff” and that the legislature “should consider reforms.” Georgia is one of four states that have runoff in the general election, although only Georgia and Louisiana use them for all races. Nine states have runoffs in primaries, although the rules vary.
Georgia lawmakers said possible options included lowering the threshold for winning an election to a 45% plurality or using ranked-choice ballots for voters, as some other states do, with additional votes beyond the first candidate. To designate substitutes, allow immediate runoff.
Under current Georgia law, if no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote in the primary or general election, the top two finishers advance to a runoff election.
In most states, the candidate who receives the most votes, even if he or she falls short of a majority, wins the party primary or general election. But most Southern states require runoffs in the primaries, an increase at a time when white supremacist Democrats were an overwhelming majority and sought to consolidate support behind a candidate in the general election to prevent divisions that could threaten their rule. Could have put
Georgia went a step further in the 1960s and also required a runoff for the general election, with a sponsor saying it was meant to solidify white rule. State Representative Denmark Grover, one of the principal proponents of the 1964 law that established the system, said it was intended to “prevent the Negro bloc vote from controlling the elections”.
While legislation was introduced in the 1980s to repeal the majority-vote requirement in favor of a plurality system, those efforts were unsuccessful. The Justice Department separately attempted to challenge Georgia’s voting requirement through a lawsuit filed in 1990 under the Voting Rights Act. Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights John Dunn said the practice “has a markedly chilling effect on the ability of blacks to become candidates for public office.”
Raffensperger’s spokesman said the secretary of state was not available for interview this week and it was up to lawmakers to decide on any changes. Raffensperger is not proposing to change the requirement for runoffs after party primaries.
GOP Gov. Brian Kemp, incoming lieutenant governor Burt Jones, who will chair the state Senate, and representatives of the state Republican and Democratic parties did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Wednesday. A slow start to legislation and a potentially limited appetite for major changes are expected amid the General Assembly’s leadership in a session beginning on January 9.
State Rape. Alan Powell, a Republican who has been vice chairman of the House Special Committee on Election Integrity, said he would not support changes that would allow people with less than a majority to win elections.
“As a philosophical point of view, if you’re going to represent an elected person, they need at least 50 plus 1% of the electorate to ratify their election,” Powell said on Wednesday.
But Democratic State Sen. Elena Parente said she had heard discussions about lowering the threshold to avoid the 45% requirement for an existing majority. Parent said she would favor at least an immediate runoff test because many local elections have very low turnout in runoffs, which she said is a “very undemocratic” way of determining elections.
State Sen. Michelle Au, a Democrat, said she “would be surprised if we don’t see multiple versions of plurality or immediate runoffs proposed.”
Powell said that ranked-choice voting was discussed when Georgia overhauls its election law in 2021, but it was only approved as a way to cut runoff time from nine weeks to four weeks. Won support for voters.
When no one reached the 50% threshold in either of the two US Senate races two years earlier, a runoff election was held nine weeks later, on January 5, 2021. respectively.
A change in the 2021 election law meant that the last day of voting in this year’s runoff election was just four weeks after the general election. That short runoff period presented a challenge for county elections officials, especially with the Thanksgiving holiday in between.