WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Wednesday, Dec. 14, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) called upon the Georgia Legislature to consider eliminating the state’s general election runoff system. “No one wants to be dealing with politics in the middle of their family holiday,” said Raffensperger in a statement. “It’s even tougher on the counties who had a difficult time completing all of their deadlines, an election audit and executing a runoff in a four-week time period.” This decision comes on the heels of a runoff election where Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) was re-elected; two years prior, Warnock and Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) prevailed in the 2021 runoffs and flipped the state’s U.S. Senate delegation from red to blue.
Between the 2020 and 2022 runoff election, the Legislature passed Georgia’s well-known voter suppression law, Senate Bill 202, which moved the runoff timeline several weeks earlier; as a consequence, Peach State voters had only five days of mandatory early voting, compared to three weeks in 2020. With an accelerated timeline this year, administrative challenges arose and a legal battle over a crucial weekend early voting day ensued.
Notably, Raffensperger’s announcement only called to end the general election runoff; Georgia also holds runoffs for primary elections. Doing away with the general runoff but keeping the primary runoff would put Georgia’s policy in line with that in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas — Southern states that require candidates to win a majority (meaning over 50%) of the primary vote to avoid a runoff. All of these states originally adopted primary runoff systems to ensure that Black voters could not elect candidates of their choice. The runoff was enacted in Georgia in 1964, one year after the state’s previous system of manipulating electoral results was deemed unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. The system served to maintain the power of white Georgians. The last two Senate runoff elections have shown that the law no longer serves its Jim Crow purpose.