What Georgia voters should know about the runoff system


Georgia voters will vote again for Senate in a runoff election on Dec. 6. Photo courtesy of CBS News

DeAnna Smith and Persia Walls

As Georgia voters made their way to the polls on November 8th , many knew that the race was projected to be a very close call. The race for Georgia Senate now has a runoff which is set to take place on Dec. 6. between Democratic Raphael Warnock who earned 49.4% of votes and Republican Herschel Walker who earned 48.5% of votes on this past election day. A runoff election occurs when none of the candidates gain at least 50% of their state’s votes. Tight political races are beginning to happen more frequently in the state of Georgia which is why it’s usually a toss up on whether or not Georgia will be red or blue state.

According to Time Magazine, the history of runoffs in the state were created to suppress the Black vote. Many students at South who may have voted for the first time this year may not be aware on what this term refers to. Voter Suppression is the act of being hindered from actively using your constitutional right of electing your representatives and/or presidential candidates. In summary, voter suppression is the inability to vote. An umbrella term that does not truly shed to light on the real issues with politics that aim to silence minorities.

According to Brennan Center for Justice, a nonprofit law and public policy institute, 45% black voters reported having an extended wait time compared to white voters, who only waited 6 minutes on average. For example, in the 2020 general election, voters waited up to ten hours to cast their ballot in Fulton County, GA ; leaving many of them tired and hungry from the extreme wait times. Early voting is a great opportunity many take advantage of, including Mr. Kevin McKinney, a teacher at South Gwinnett High School, who said “As an African American male, voter suppression is very concerning, as we work very hard to earn the right to vote, it is a privilege to cast a vote. In the 2020 election year, I voted early in Rockdale County.” As voters prepare to cast their vote in the runoff election next month, it’s important to know the history behind the runoff system.

Georgia and Louisiana are the only states in the country that requires a runoff election when none of the candidates reaches at least 50% of the vote. In 1963, a Georgia state representative, Denmark Groover, came up with election runoffs with the understanding that a second round of voting would likely exclude the minority vote and prevent them from being able to advance their political interests. Dr. Mitchell Brown, a political science professor at Auburn University who focuses on elections and marginalized communities says, “Runoffs also disadvantage people with barriers to transportation and who work jobs that do not allow for easy time off- to the extent that because of history and structural racism, this group includes more racial minorities.” According to a 2007 study by the National Park Service twenty years after the runoff practice was put in place Groover admitted, “If you want to establish if I was racially prejudiced, I was. If you want to establish that some of my political activity was racially motivated, it was.” Although the history of the runoff election is targeted to suppress black votes, it is important that Georgia voters are informed on the voting systems and exercise their right to vote in the runoff election next month.