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Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger calls for an end to runoff elections

Semta News
Semta News
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Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Wednesday called for the state Legislature to end general election runoff contests.

“Georgia is one of the only states in the country with a General Election Runoff,” he said in a statement. “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.”

“No one wants to be dealing with politics in the middle of their family holiday,” added Raffensperger, a Republican and the top elections official in the crucial battleground state. “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.”

His statement comes one week after Georgia’s closely watched Senate runoff election, in which Sen. Raphael Warnock defeated GOP challenger Herschel Walker. It was the state’s third Senate general election runoff in the past two election cycles.

Responding to questions from NBC News for more information about Raffensperger’s opposition to runoffs, a spokesperson for his office said that election workers are “burned out” at the end of a long election season and that runoff elections are disliked by candidates, voters, campaigns and county workers alike.

The spokesperson mentioned three potential options that Georgia legislators might consider when they convene next month if they decide to engage in discussions to end the runoff process. Raffensperger himself mentioned these three options during a press conference last week following the runoff, and again in an interview with The New York Times.

One option would be to create a ranked-choice ballot and instant-runoff system in which voters would rank their candidate preferences on the general election ballot. If a candidate does not get more than 50% of the vote, then an instant runoff would occur, which would mean voters would not have to return to the polls for a runoff election.

Another option would be to lower the threshold that candidates have to meet to avoid a runoff from an outright majority (more than 50%) to a plurality, the spokesperson said, while another option could be to eliminate third-party candidate ballot access altogether.

The spokesperson said that the office was not advocating for any one proposal in particular.

Georgia’s General Assembly meets in January.

Under Georgia law, a runoff occurs if no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote in an election. The top two vote-getters then advance to another election.

Georgia is one of only two states — the other is Louisiana — that continue to hold general election runoffs (though another nine use runoffs in primaries). Critics have noted that the runoff process has origins in decades-old segregationist legislation in both the Southern states.

The runoff process underwent an overhaul just last year as part of a sweeping election law enacted in the state.

The law, Senate Bill 202, signed by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in March 2021, cut in half the time allowed between a general election and a runoff election — from nine weeks to four weeks — drastically shortening the period during which many voters must request, receive and cast ballots. The law’s narrowed time frame effectively cut the early in-person voting period from a minimum of 16 days in 2020 to a minimum of five this year, while existing rules ensured almost no new voters would be eligible to vote in the runoff.

The narrower time frame was further complicated by the fact that the Thanksgiving holiday fell in the middle of it, which voting rights advocates warned ahead of the election could mean that Saturday early voting would be limited for many people, and various deadlines to request and send out mail-in ballots would sneak up on voters.

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