Brian Kemp: State lawmakers will have to consider ending runoff elections in Georgia

State lawmakers will have to consider getting rid of runoff elections in Georgia next year – at least those involving federal candidates in general elections – because of a recent ruling by a U.S. district judge requiring 45 days for ballots cast by members of the U.S. military to make their way home, Secretary of State Brian Kemp on Monday.

Ballot requirements insisted on by the U.S. Justice Department and upheld by the court last week all but invalidate a current state law requiring that winners in all general elections receive 50 percent plus one vote, Kemp said – given that federal runoffs in those contests would have to be delayed until late December.

“We’d be voting during Christmas. There may be people getting certified while other people are getting sworn in. It’s really a logistical nightmare,” Kemp said.

Primary calendars may also need to be changed if runoff elections are to be preserved in those contests, Kemp said. This year’s primary balloting will occur on July 31. To comply with the federal court ruling, Kemp this year has agreed to allow runoff ballots from overseas to be collected and counted for 10 days beyond the Aug. 21 voting date.

“We could do away with runoffs in federal elections, which is what Florida does. You get the most votes, you’re going to Congress,” Kemp said. If the Legislature wants to preserve primary runoffs, then the date of Georgia’s mid-summer primary would have to be pushed into mid-June. Which would require qualifying – the period in which candidates declare themselves – to be held in April instead of May.

Runoffs in elections for state or local offices aren’t affected by the federal judge’s ruling, but the costs of the extra balloting could tempt county election boards to press for similar treatment.

Aside from ending runoffs, another option would be to build an Internet-based system that would allow U.S. military personnel to cast electronic ballots, Kemp said. “We’ve kind of looked at that already,” he said. “I don’t want to get too out front on that issue, from a security standpoint. I do have concerns there. There are other secretaries of state that do.”

As for other solutions, Kemp expressed no bias. “It doesn’t matter what my preferences are. It’s just a matter of getting everybody else on board. What we were working under before was state law,” he said. “We have to get something the governor’s comfortable with, and we have to get the legislative bodies to go along as well — and I don’t know what our congressional guys think.”

Kemp said he would probably begin consulting with all parties after the July primary.

The last major statewide runoff in a federal contest was in 2008, when Republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss was forced into four weeks of extra campaigning by Democrat Jim Martin. Chambliss won. In the 1992 race for U.S. Senate, Republican challenger Paul Coverdell ousted Democratic incumbent Wyche Fowler by drawing him into a runoff. In each case, the race included a Libertarian candidate.

Obviously, ending runoffs in general elections could enhance the clout of third parties in Georgia, whether in statewide or congressional races. For instance, Cynthia McKinney’s decision to run as a Green Party candidate against Democratic incumbent Hank Johnson in the 4th District congressional race might have little effect this year, but could make a much larger difference in 2014 – should Georgia abandon all runoffs.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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24 comments Add your comment

I Like Turtles

July 9th, 2012
4:34 pm

Coverdell’s campaign to “boot Wyche Fowler” was extremely effective and came with a catchy radio jingle. More campaigns should have jingles.

Centrist

July 9th, 2012
4:34 pm

I’ve heard that other countries (Australia?) do instant runoffs by having voters rank their choices 1, 2, and 3. If their first choice misses the runoff cut, their second choice is then counted.

Centrist

July 9th, 2012
4:39 pm

Found it – Instant-runoff voting (IRV), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instant-runoff_voting

It would probably take an Act of Congress, multiple lawsuits to work through even more appeals, and an ultimate SCOTUS ruling. I should live long enough.

Ga Values .................. VOTE NO FOR WASTE, GRAFT & CORRUPTION

July 9th, 2012
5:00 pm

Obviously the GOP is afraid of the Libertarian party. I’ll be voting mostly 3rd party this year because neither party will field a honest candidate.

The truth

July 9th, 2012
5:00 pm

To win an election you should have to win a majority of the votes, not a plurality.
Adjust the dates!

Auntie Christ

July 9th, 2012
5:01 pm

No one should be allowed to represent a political entity, be it a city, a district, a county,or a state unless at least 50% + 1 votes for them, IMHO. The Presidential election, with electoral votes is a different animal.

Don't change it!!

July 9th, 2012
5:06 pm

So basically you could win an election with 1/3 plus one. You haveb the possibility of a winner without the support of 2/3 of the voters. Absolute brilliance!

Jim S.

July 9th, 2012
5:11 pm

@I Like Turtles…I complement you on your sense of humor.

Kris

July 9th, 2012
5:14 pm

Just a few things.
Now, Georgia’s war veterans are getting something else from the state for the first time: A bill.
Adding to veterans’ sensitivity, many said they did not find out about the effort until after the bill passed. By then, Gov. Nathan Deal signed it. Another dirty DEAL

Impeach DEAL and arrest his cronies.

Vote No on ts-LOST…let the GOP get jobs pay taxes and fund their OWN retirement.

Vote out the crooked GOP

mark

July 9th, 2012
5:15 pm

Many other states do not have runoffs and have the winner of a plurality declared the winner… And the sky does not fall in those places. Eliminating runoffs could provide significant savings in elections… particularly where there is low turnout and little bang for the taxpayer’s buck.

Jim S.

July 9th, 2012
5:16 pm

Apparently, I need spell check on this thing…oops.

Georgia Conservative

July 9th, 2012
5:21 pm

Run-off elections are essential when you have only one functioning political party — especially in communities where one party dominates. Without run-offs, you can win a multi-candidate contest with a small fraction of the vote. Ending run-offs will be an open invitation for fringe candidates and narrow single-issue candidacies.

Centrist

July 9th, 2012
5:23 pm

I don’t often agree with mark, but when I do I drink Dos Equis (with a tequila shooter).

There is probably too big an election industry of paid staff, consultants, ad agencies, polling firms, media outlets to allow shortening or more efficient election campaigns. Think of this non-productive industry as “stimulus”.

Johns creek

July 9th, 2012
5:26 pm

Let’s go with Internet voting by military personnel

Drew

July 9th, 2012
5:47 pm

@Centrist, note that per your link, Arkansas, Louisiana, and South Carolina already use IRV for overseas voters to resolve this very issue.

Too bad that Brian Kemp isn’t aware of this solution. But it’s not like his job requires that he know anything about elections or voting, right?

Auntie Christ

July 9th, 2012
5:50 pm

Kemp is reaching high and low for excuses to eliminate runoffs, just what you would expect from a hack for the party in power. In any election where an incumbent is on the ballot, unless they are totally corrupt or incompetent, the incumbent can usually count on about 30-35% of the vote, just by virtue of their incumbency. Now I would never accuse a Ga politico of doing anything underhanded, but for arguments sake, consider the following scenario:

I am the incumbent facing a strong challenger named Smith. Maybe I have a couple of cronies named Smith also, whom I might just be able to encourage to put up the qualifying fee and get on the ballot against me. Viola, the Smiths together get 55-60% of the vote and I get 40% and declared the “winner.” There are all kinds of scenarios for chicanery when runoffs are eliminated.

CobbGOPer

July 9th, 2012
6:20 pm

Inre: Third Party Cout – Jim, they will continue to have no clout until they are allowed to field candidates without having to first gather tens of thousands of certified signatures just to get on the ballot. Change that law and then we can talk.

Shane Bruce

July 9th, 2012
6:44 pm

Greetings All,

In the interest of accuracy, the 2008 US Senate run off was brought to you courtesy of the Georgia Libertarian Party’s US Senate Candidate Allen Buckley. The 127,923 votes he garnered in the general election (3.4%) threw the race into a run off and gave democrat Jim Martin another crack at the job. Alas, Saxby did prevail.

Please note that non-primary run offs are rare birds in Georgia due to the fact that our fair states ballot access laws have reliably kept third party candidates from competing since around 1943. This election cycle alone will see about 119 incumbents down at the state house facing no opponents in the general election this fall. Does that sound like a functioning republic where competition breeds excellence?

How can the citizens of Georgia remedy this? Do not look to the legislature to welcome additional applicants for those sweet part time gigs in the State House or State Senate, they are quite content with the current republican and democrat plantations. The public does have a say in the matter and can force the state to open up Georgia’s ballot access laws by simply casting a ballot for Libertarian Gary Johnson for President this fall.

One vote for Gary Johnson won’t get it done. It will take on the order of 785,000 votes to hit the 20% threshold required by state law to elevate the Georgia Libertarian Party from political body status to full fledged political party with full spectrum ballot access. That’s a pile of votes.

Here’s the Project 785 proposition. If 350,000 less than gruntled republicans cast their vote for Libertarian Gary Johnson and are joined by 350,000 disaffected democrats and around 100,000 Georgia Libertarians we can bring about fundamental change to Georgia Politics.

No more uncontested races, at least two choices if not three and robust competition for political office as the founders of our republic intended. Live Free, Vote for Libertarian Gary Johnson.

Winnie

July 9th, 2012
7:11 pm

Reflexive trashing of republicans. More of the mindless feeding frenzy that is poisioning our politics and eating away at civility. Not smart. Not classy. Not cool.

jconservative

July 9th, 2012
7:50 pm

The person with the most votes wins; not the person with a majority of the votes.

Kris

July 9th, 2012
7:51 pm

We should keep run off that way If I press the wong button on the electronic voting device (which was purchased by from the LOW BIDDER). Ga should have a recount of the votes from the Barnes / Deal election joke. IN the mean time.

Impeach DEAL and arrest his cronies.

Vote No on ts-LOST…let the GOP get jobs pay taxes and fund their OWN retirement.

Vote out the crooked GOP

[...] of State Brian Kemp told Jim Galloway that the General Assembly may have to consider eliminating runoff elections in order to comply with federal voting laws. Ballot requirements insisted on by the U.S. Justice [...]

Just a taxpayer

July 10th, 2012
8:09 am

Kemp is incompetent. He is trading one unconstitutional argument for another. Eliminating runoffs because it is inconvenient is another DOJ lawsuit. Better to think about a way to make it work, then to continue to use Georgia’s taxes to fight unwinnable legal issues.

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