What’s the deal with the Georgia runoffs?

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Georgia’s state flag (Photo: Reader’s Digest)

In the aftermath of the November 3rd general election, most of the nation’s political attention is fixated on Washington D.C., as Joe Biden’s victorious team prepares to occupy the White House…while President Trump and some of his allies deny the fact that they lost.

However, there is also a huge amount of interest in an unlikely location — the state of Georgia, which will be holding two runoff elections for its seats in the U.S. Senate on January 5th. Going into November’s election, Georgia was the only state in the union with two Senate elections, and the January runoffs mean it is probably the only state in history to have four Senate elections in the same election cycle.

How did this happen? It’s all because of Georgia’s electoral laws. In most states, a Senate candidate need only get the most votes (a “plurality”) to win an election — not an overall majority (over 50%). For example Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina won re-election this year, despite the fact that, combined, his opponents won more votes than he did.

In the Peach State, however, a candidate must win over 50% of the vote to win an election. In practise, this means that close elections are unlikely to be resolved in the first round of voting, as even small parties like the Greens and Libertarians can siphon off enough votes to deny a majority.

Most political analysts knew going into November that there would be at least one runoff in January. Senator Kelly Loeffler was appointed to her current position by the state’s governor after the retirement of previous incumbent Johnny Isakson, and needed to win a special election in order to serve out the rest of her term in the Senate. She faced tough challengers from both the political left (Raphael Warnock, an African-American preacher) and the right (Congressman Doug Collins, a well-known Trump ally), as well as over a dozen other candidates. In the end, she and Rev. Warnock were the most popular two candidates, and will proceed to the January 5th runoff.

The state’s other, regularly scheduled election had a surprise result. Although incumbent Senator David Purdue received the most votes, he didn’t manage to reach the 50% threshold, meaning that he and Democrat Jon Ossoff will also be facing another election on January 5th.

These two runoff elections are extremely important, as their results will ultimately decide which party has a majority in the U.S. Senate. As a result, both the Republicans and the Democrats are pouring an unprecedented amount of resources into trying to swing these races.

Ultimately, though, the decision is in the hands of Georgia’s voters. Are you registered to vote in the state of Georgia? Check out VotingSmarter’s iOS app via the App Store, visit our website, and follow us on social media to help you decide which candidates best align with your values! We have added all four candidates up for the senate seat. In our app, you are able to find a quick bio of each candidate as well as a percentage match based on each of the 16 issues OR the stances of those candidates, and how they match your beliefs.

(Contributed by Ruairi Vaughan, Multimedia Content Creator, VotingSmarter)

We are YOUR unbiased, apolitical voter and civic resource. DOWNLOAD our iOS app here: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/votingsmarter/id1511426686

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