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Potemkin wrote:We call it “tactical voting”, @Politics_Observer. It sounds better.
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The Conversation wrote:In the U.S., the adoption of runoff voting at the state level first occurred in the South, after a long process of electoral experimentation.
The Georgia Constitution of 1777 directed that the governor was to be chosen each year by the legislative assembly. That system continued until an 1824 constitutional amendment required that governors be directly elected by voters. Notably, however, in situations where no candidate received a majority, the legislative assembly would make the final determination. This provision was later incorporated into successive Georgia constitutions up through 1945.
It’s important to remember that Abraham Lincoln was a Republican. After the Civil War, many white Southerners came to the realization that only through a united political front could a culture of white supremacy be preserved. As a result, Southerners who were pro-segregation and anti-civil rights universally supported Democratic candidates to all political offices.
In 1966, Howard Callaway decided to try to challenge this legacy by becoming the first Republican nominee for governor of Georgia since 1876. In the election, Callaway won 46.53% of the vote, which was slightly more than Democrat Lester Maddox – his nearest competitor – who netted 46.22% of the vote.
Despite winning a plurality, Callaway did not obtain a majority. Following the 1824 provision, Georgia’s legislative assembly – which was dominated by Democrats – ended up choosing Callaway’s Democratic opponent as the next governor. This led to a series of court battles, eventually culminating in a U.S. Supreme Court decision, which upheld the right of Georgia’s legislative assembly to choose a governor who had lost the popular vote.
The contested election of 1966 provided Georgians with an opening to adopt runoff voting for the election of future governors, other statewide officeholders and its congressional delegation. Runoff voting was already on the minds of many proponents of reform, as Georgia had adopted the system for primary elections just a few years prior.
Back in 1917, Georgia adopted the “county unit system” for all primary elections.
Under this system, “urban” counties were allocated six votes, “town” counties were allocated four votes and “rural” counties were allocated two votes. Each county’s votes were then awarded to whomever won that particular county, similar to how the U.S. Electoral College works for most states.
Just as the U.S. Electoral College gives proportionately more power to less populous states, the county unit system similarly favored less populous counties. This system was particularly harmful to the voting influence of African Americans, who largely lived in urban counties.
In 1963, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the county unit system unconstitutional as a violation of the “one person, one vote” principle. This prompted Georgian legislators to look for a new electoral system that could similarly, yet legally, suppress the African American vote. Later that year, Denmark Groover – a staunch segregationist – proposed the adoption of runoff voting, as it “would again provide protection which … was removed with the death of the county unit system.”
The fear among whites was that if elections were left to plurality voting, the white vote could be split among several different candidates, while African Americans could – in theory – vote as a single bloc for an African American candidate, who could end up winning with the most votes overall.
Groover was quoted by State Representative James Mackay as having said on the floor of the Georgia House of Representatives that with plurality voting, “the Negroes and the pressure groups and special interests are going to manipulate this State and take charge.”
However, by adopting runoff voting, even if white voters split their vote in the first round and an African American somehow made it to the second round, white voters – from both parties – would still have a chance to unite behind the white candidate to ensure victory. Groover himself advertised his runoff voting bill as being designed to “prevent the Negro bloc vote from controlling the elections.”
In 1964, Georgia adopted Groover’s runoff plan for primary elections. After the contested 1966 gubernatorial election, the state also adopted it for general elections.
Notably, Georgia’s runoff voting process works slightly differently in the event of a special election, such as the upcoming Loeffler versus Warnock Senate race. In such cases, there is no primary, and instead, all candidates – from all parties – appear together on a single ballot in what is called a “jungle primary.” If a candidate wins a majority, they are elected. If no candidate wins a majority, a runoff is held between the top two candidates – even if both are from the same party.
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