Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Wednesday called on state lawmakers to end general election runoffs when the legislature reconvenes in January.
“Georgia is one of the only states in the country with a general election runoff,” Raffensperger said in a news release. “We’re also one of the only states that always seems to have a runoff. I’m calling on the General Assembly to visit the topic of the general election runoff and consider reforms.”
Earlier this month, Georgians voted in a run-off Senate election between Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker.
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Why get rid of Georgia’s runoff elections?
- Raffensperger cited the incursion of voting into family holidays, along with the strain on local election officials who had general election deadlines, an election audit and the runoff all within four weeks.
- In late November, the Atlanta Journal Constitution estimated that the runoff cost more than $10 million in the Atlanta area alone.
- The total cost of the Senate runoff in 2021 was $75 million across the state.
- The system has also drawn criticism this year from those who say runoffs diffuse the growing power of Black voters in the state, though the Senate runoff between Sen. Raphael Warnock and candidate Herschel Walker drew a record number of early voters.
Who won Georgia’s 2022 runoff race?
Warnock defeated Walker by nearly 100,000 votes in a runoff election earlier this month, expanding Democrats’ majority in the Senate.
Democrats had already secured control of the U.S. Senate with incumbent Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto’s narrow win in Nevada: that ensured a 50-50 Senate with Vice President Kamala Harris casting tie-breaking votes. Warnock’s victory gives them a 51st vote, making it easier for congressional Democrats to push President Joe Biden’s agenda despite Republicans’ forthcoming control of the House when a new Congress is sworn in Jan. 3.
The Senate candidates in Georgia were separated by just 36,000 votes in the Nov. 8 general election. But neither candidate won more than 50% of the vote, spurring the runoff.
What’s the history of the modern runoff?
After Democratic incumbent Sen. Wyche Fowler lost to Republican challenger Paul Coverdell in a 1992 runoff, the Democratic majority in Georgia’s state legislature reduced the 50%-plus-one vote requirement to avoid a runoff down to 45%.
That worked out for the Democrats four years later when Max Cleland won the seat of retiring Sen. Sam Nunn with more than 45% of the vote but less than 50%.
Republicans responded to that 1996 loss when the GOP won control of the legislature in 2004. During their first legislative session in power, Republicans changed the requirement back to the 50%-plus-one threshold.
Who’s in favor of runoffs in Georgia?
Georgia State Rep. Alan Powell, a Republican who has been the vice chairman of the state’s House Special Committee on Election Integrity, said he would not support changes that would let people win elections with less than a majority.
“As a philosophical point, if you’re going to have an elected person represent you, they need to have at least 50 plus 1% of the voters to ratify their elections,” Powell said Wednesday, according to the Associated Press.
Contributing: Ella Lee; Associated Press; Dave Williams, bureau chief of Capitol Beat News Service
Story Credit: usatoday.com