What is a Runoff Election?


Nationwide attention has centered around Georgia’s Senate race, where neither incumbent Senator Raphael Warnock nor challenger Hershel Walker received the most votes on Election Day; therefore, this will be decided through a runoff election on December 6th.

Voting laws vary between states, but most require at least 50% of votes cast to win an election.

What is a runoff election?

When no candidate reaches the threshold for outright victory in an election, a runoff must occur. This applies both during primaries and general elections, most commonly in the case of congressional and gubernatorial seats. Still, some states also use them for state legislative races and local offices.

Runoff elections pit the top two vote-getters against each other in a second ballot to determine who will become president. Typically, this process employs instant-runoff voting or exhausted balloting as methods of conduct; regardless of its forms, however, it remains imperative that all eligible voters stay informed and encouraged to cast their vote.

Special interest groups also often play an active role in elections. This could include business leaders or labor unions looking for their interests to be represented; similarly, organizations advocating for religious freedom or LGBT rights may hope their voice is heard and will often support candidates that offer transparent platforms and agendas that reflect community needs. A runoff election could help bring forward candidates that match up well against these expectations.

Runoff elections do present their own set of challenges, however. After voting in a general election, many voters experience voter drop-off. They may be less likely to turn out again for a second ballot – especially people of color, young voters, and those living in low-income communities. Furthermore, due to short timeframe between voting in both elections, a vote can become challenging if you cannot take off work or depend on family members for assistance when casting your ballots in time for runoffs.

Georgia has a rich history of using runoff elections despite these challenges, having used them several times during federal and state races over the last 30 years, including this year. Under new legislation passed by the Georgia legislature in 2021, runoff elections now happen between three weeks instead of nine.

What is a primary runoff election?

KOIN 6 contacted the Oregon Secretary of State’s office to ascertain whether Oregon offers primary runoff elections; their spokesperson confirmed this practice but only for nonpartisan races.

Under Oregon law, to be declared the winner, a candidate must receive at least 50% of the vote; otherwise, a runoff election between two of the top candidates takes place.

This system leads to costly and pointless elections that waste taxpayer dollars. In contrast, the long delay between primaries and runoffs leads to dramatic drops in turnout – particularly among voters of color who tend to vote in Democratic primaries more frequently than white voters.

Currently, seven states use primary runoff elections: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and South Carolina. North Carolina and South Dakota both utilize lower thresholds for runoff elections but remain majority vote systems.

Primary runoffs serve a crucial purpose: they guarantee that candidates obtain at least a majority of their party’s primary votes before moving forward in general elections. But this happens differently than expected: most states allow two top finishers from any primary to move on to general elections if no candidate wins a majority, leading them to face each other directly in subsequent general elections.

In other states, runoff elections may only be required if no candidate receives more than 50% of votes cast; typically, this threshold is set at 50%, but some states have higher requirements.

Though some believe this system empowers grassroots candidates and reduces partisan bickering, such arguments are deeply flawed. Furthermore, most primary runoffs feature candidates from the initial round with additional funds and political influence in second-round contests compared with first-round candidates.

FairVote suggests rank-choice voting (also called instant runoff voting) as the solution to these problems, preserving the goals of runoff elections while simultaneously reducing costs and eliminating biases against race and gender. FairVote encourages this reform for both primary and general elections.

What is a general runoff election?

Runoff elections occur when no candidate receives a majority of votes in the initial ballot, such as primary elections where voters select candidates who will represent their party in general elections; they can also occur during general elections for state and local offices.

Primary runoff elections occur if the leading vote-getter in a primary fails to secure enough votes in that race to meet the minimum percentage threshold set forth by law to win it outright. The entry typically required is 50%; however, depending on state law, it could be lower.

Runoff elections occur when two candidates from each party win enough votes to advance to the second round of voting, where they face off against each other and compete to become elected officials for that district or race. Once certified as such, their winner becomes certified as such.

After participating in primary and general election seasons, many voters may feel disinclined to cast another ballot; however, casting your vote in an upcoming runoff election will determine who represents your state for years to come.

Georgia’s US Senate election has drawn national scrutiny due to a runoff election rule called for by incumbent Senator Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker failing to meet the 50% threshold needed to win outright in November’s general election, thus forcing them into a head-to-head runoff on December 6.

Runoff elections are a remnant of Jim Crow era politics designed to ensure White Southerners maintained unchecked power in Congress. Unfortunately, today these runoffs disproportionately disenfranchise Black voters and other minorities from voting in elections held over runoff elections.

As citizens, we must fight to defend democracy by advocating for fairer electoral systems and upholding citizens’ right to be heard. One effective strategy to do this is supporting FairVote’s efforts to replace runoff elections with instant runoff voting (ranked-choice or instant runoff voting), which allows everyone to participate democratically by organizing their top picks for each race – click here for more info!

What is a ranked-choice runoff election?

Ranked choice runoff elections provide an alternative to traditional plurality voting systems. Voters rank candidates in order of preference. If no candidate receives majority first-choice votes, ballots from voters who ranked that candidate second are redistributed among their third choices until one candidate achieves majority support; this process continues until one winner emerges – this can be applied both to primary and general elections.

Many voters feel that single-winner elections do not accurately reflect their perspectives and opinions, particularly voters of color who face more significant barriers to voting than white people and therefore have less power in shaping local, state, and national government. Furthermore, following runoff elections which typically occur after general elections during holiday seasons, can be challenging for voters.

While there are various approaches to running off elections, one famous way is requiring that a candidate obtains at least a threshold percentage in the initial election (this number varies by state) to prevent runoff elections from being needed. This minimum threshold usually sits around 50%.

Runoff elections involve the top two vote-getters progressing to a second round of voting, often held during the same election as before but sometimes separately; usually, this second vote occurs four weeks post-original election date.

As partisan polarization and voter dissatisfaction with our democracy increase, many voters have called for alternatives to our current plurality voting system – specifically ranked choice voting (RCV). Under RCV elections, voters rank their choices for each office election with first and second-preference ballots counted until an official winner is declared.

RCV is already used in some states, including Georgia, for electing county commissioners, judges, and city council seats. When applying for absentee ballots for either primary or general elections, voters can request RCV ballots; similarly, military voters overseas can order them through mail-in absentee voting applications.