Georgia could try ranked-choice voting in cities under new bill

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Runoffs would remain in place for statewide elections

A bill introduced in the Georgia House would allow cities to hold elections with ranked-choice voting, eliminating runoffs at the local level.

The bipartisan proposal wouldn’t end runoffs in statewide elections in Georgia, the only state in the nation that requires runoffs after both primary and general elections in which no candidate wins a majority.

Runoffs for U.S. Senate races in the 2020 and 2022 election cycles resulted in wins for Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.

Under ranked-choice voting, voters would fill out their ballots by choosing their second-choice candidate along with their top pick. Then, if a voter’s first choice doesn’t finish among the top two candidates, the vote for the second-choice candidate would be counted, avoiding the need for another election.

“This is a starting point as a test if cities want to do it,” said state Rep. Joseph Gullett, a Republican from Dallas who introduced House Bill 200 on Wednesday. “If they’re successful at it, we’ll have an idea what this could look like in the state of Georgia. If it’s a terrible process, we’ll know that, too.”

State legislators have also discussed other ways to eliminate runoffs, such as deciding the winner of general elections based on a plurality as long as the top candidate wins at least 45% of the vote. But no bills have been proposed so far to move forward with that idea.

About 58% of Georgia voters supported eliminating runoffs after general elections, making the candidate who receives the most votes the winner, according to a poll last month by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Several cities have proposed ranked-choice voting for municipal elections, including Atlanta and Woodstock, Gullett said.

Georgia already uses ranked-choice voting, also known as instant runoffs, for members of the military and overseas voters, according to the state’s election law passed in 2021.