Chandra Brown was first in line at Henry W. Grady High School in Atlanta on Tuesday May 22, 2018. Voters across the state reported to their regular precincts to decide on candidates for governor, Congress and statewide races in the Democratic and Republican primaries. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

Why Georgia’s runoff elections won’t be held until late July

Georgia voters have a long wait before runoffs settle the outcome of primary elections.

The runoff election will be held July 24, when voters will decide on the Republican Party nominee for governorlieutenant governor and secretary of state. The main runoffs on the Democratic Party ballot are races for U.S. Congress and state schools superintendent.

Why are runoffs nine weeks after Georgia’s May 22 primary?

U.S. District Judge Steve Jones ruled in 2013 that Georgia was violating a requirement to give Americans living abroad enough time to mail their ballots.  A federal law requires election officials to send absentee ballots to military and overseas voters at least 45 days before a federal election.

Before the ruling, runoffs in Georgia were held three weeks after the initial election.

To make the state to comply, Jones enacted a new Georgia election calendar.

His order said Georgia’s primary and general elections involving federal elections shall be held nine weeks before the runoffs.

Most states don’t have this issue. Georgia is one of a few states that requires runoffs for primary and general elections if no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote.

Other states use plurality voting: The candidate with the most votes wins, even if that’s less than a majority.

States with plurality voting don’t need runoffs, allowing for more condensed election schedules.

Another way some states avoid lengthy delays before runoffs is through instant-runoff voting. Under instant-runoffs, voters rank candidates to determine who should win a multiway election. 

Georgia laws don’t allow instant runoffs, and the state’s electronic voting machines can’t handle instant runoffs, according to a June 2014 letter from Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp.

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