If a runoff for a general election seems unusual, it is. Georgia is one of the few states that requires the winning candidate to receive a majority vote in the general election.
Adding to the oddity is that Georgia has two U.S. Senate races on the ballot and both will now be decided by runoffs. Republican Sen. David Perdue faces Democrat Jon Ossoff in one race. Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler faces Democrat Raphael Warnock in the second. Georgia’s twin U.S. Senate runoffs are bringing national attention to Georgia, including expected visits by national political leaders. And local television will be filled with campaign advertising for a few more weeks.
Why two dates? Federal elections, such as the U.S. Senate and Congress, follow different rules for runoffs, including an extension of voter registration. The nine-week runoff election for federal races is used in Georgia because federal law requires time for overseas voters to return ballots in federal elections, such as the U.S. Senate.
When are the runoffs?
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UPDATE: The runoff for the Georgia Public Service Commission will be moved to Tuesday, Jan. 5, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said on Nov. 11.
The voter registration deadline for the January runoff, which applies only to voters who are not already registered, is Dec. 7, 2020.
Under Georgia law, a runoff is possible in any election with more than two candidates, because state law requires a candidate to be elected by a majority vote. The Georgia special election for the U.S. Senate seat held by Kelly Loeffler, had 21 candidates, so the runoff in that election was no surprise.
In the second race, the presence of a third candidate, Libertarian Shane Hazel, created the possibility of a runoff.
Both U.S. Senate runoff elections will be on Tuesday, Jan. 5.
Runoffs are more common in primary elections, but voting experts have said they are more likely to be required in Southern states, according to previous AJC reporting. Primary runoffs are required, for example, in Alabama, North Carolina and South Carolina, according to reporting by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Georgia, however, is one of two states requiring a runoff in general elections, according to FindLaw.com.
Changing the runoff requirement would require action by the Georgia Legislature.
One important exception to the runoff requirement is the presidential election. There is no runoff for presidential candidates. Georgia law provides a specific exemption for the presidential vote.