Georgia bill could end runoffs by deciding winners in general election

Prospects of plurality-wins proposal uncertain in General Assembly
Voters line up outside of the Pinckneyville Park Community Recreation Center in Berleley Lake for early voting in the 2022 U.S. Senate runoff. Legislation introduced Wednesday would do away with runoffs, declaring a winner if at least one candidate gets 45% of the vote. Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Voters line up outside of the Pinckneyville Park Community Recreation Center in Berleley Lake for early voting in the 2022 U.S. Senate runoff. Legislation introduced Wednesday would do away with runoffs, declaring a winner if at least one candidate gets 45% of the vote. Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Runoffs would be eliminated after Georgia general elections as long as a candidate wins at least 45% of the vote, according to a Democratic-sponsored bill filed Wednesday.

It’s the first proposal introduced this year to do away with runoffs after U.S. Senate races went into overtime both last year and in 2020. Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock swept those three runoffs.

The legislation, House Bill 419, would end Georgia’s requirement for runoffs when no candidate wins a majority in general elections featuring Democratic, Libertarian and Republican candidates.

Instead, candidates would be elected if they receive a plurality of votes cast, which is similar to how most states decide elections.

Georgia is one of three states, along with Louisiana and Mississippi, that mandate runoffs after general elections when no candidate receives at least 50% of the vote. No other state requires runoffs after both primary and general elections.

“Georgians are tired of runoffs extending the campaign cycle into December,” said state Rep. Saira Draper, a Democrat from Atlanta who introduced the bill. “While others around the country are sitting down for Thanksgiving turkey with their families and planning their winter holidays, Georgians are subjected to a barrage of increasingly negative campaign commercials and mailers. It’s time to reform our system.”

State Rep. Saira Draper filed House Bill 419, which would do away with runoffs in Georgia elections. A winner could be declared if at least one candidate wins 45% of the votes cast. “Georgians are tired of runoffs extending the campaign cycle into December,” said Draper, a Democrat from Atlanta. “While others around the country are sitting down for Thanksgiving turkey with their families and planning their winter holidays, Georgians are subjected to a barrage of increasingly negative campaign commercials and mailers. It’s time to reform our system.”

Credit: Courtesy photo

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Credit: Courtesy photo

Without any co-sponsors from the Republican majority in the General Assembly, the bill’s prospects are uncertain.

Democrats have won recent runoffs in Georgia, but Republicans dominated runoffs in previous years.

Republican leaders in the General Assembly have said they’d consider ideas to eliminate runoffs but hadn’t decided whether they’d support a change.

The proposed plurality-wins system would reverse the majority requirement approved by Republicans in 2005 after they took control of the General Assembly.

A poll by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in January found that 58% of people surveyed supported eliminating general election runoffs by declaring whichever candidate receives the most votes the winner.

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