How the U.S. Senate runoff will work in Georgia

Credit: Christina Matacotta for the AJC

Credit: Christina Matacotta for the AJC

Georgia requires runoffs when no candidate breaks 50%

Once again, Georgia will stand alone in the nation with a runoff election in four weeks that could decide control of the U.S. Senate.

Georgia is one of only two states, along with Louisiana, that requires a runoff after a general election when no candidate wins a majority of votes. Most other states decide winners based on whichever candidate gets the most votes, even if that’s less than 50% of votes cast.

A runoff between Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker is scheduled for Dec. 6 because neither candidate received a majority of the votes cast in Tuesday’s election. A third candidate in the race, Libertarian Chase Oliver, received 2% of the vote, keeping his rivals at 49% each.

The last time there were statewide runoffs in Georgia, Democrats Warnock and Jon Ossoff won their elections on Jan. 5, 2021, flipping control of the Senate.

ExploreHow Georgia’s unique runoff system came to be

This year, runoffs will take place more quickly, avoiding the nine-week campaign after the November 2020 general election. The Republican-controlled General Assembly shortened the runoff period to four weeks as part of the state’s voting law passed in the wake of the last election cycle.

Just one week of early voting will be required instead of the three weeks mandated before other elections.

Early voting will be held in every Georgia county from Monday through Friday, Nov. 28 to Dec. 2. There’s no required day of Saturday voting.

County election offices have the option to start holding early voting sooner, after Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger certifies results from the initial election sometime the week before.

Absentee voting is also available, but there won’t be much time for voters to request and return their ballots. All completed ballots must be received at election offices before polls close on Dec. 6. Voters can request absentee ballots through a state website available at securemyabsenteeballot.sos.ga.gov.

Voters who registered by Monday, Nov. 7, are eligible to participate in the runoffs, even if they didn’t cast a ballot in the original election.