Georgia’s Top Election Official Calls for End to Runoff System

ATLANTA — Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, called for the state legislature to end the use of runoff contests during general elections on Wednesday, a potential move that would overhaul Georgia’s heavily debated system of choosing its leaders.

Mr. Raffensperger, a Republican who oversees the state’s elections, cited the recently condensed timeline for runoff elections as one problem, saying that it had put added strain on poll workers. The runoff window was shortened to four weeks from nine under a major 2021 election law backed by Republican state lawmakers.

“No one wants to be dealing with politics in the middle of their family holiday,” Mr. Raffensperger said in a news release. “It’s even tougher on the counties who had a difficult time completing all of their deadlines, an election audit and executing a runoff in a four-week time period.”

Mr. Raffensperger does not have any legislative power and did not endorse any other specific changes on Wednesday. But his early support for eliminating the runoff system could influence how Republican state lawmakers approach the question.

The Republican-controlled legislature would need a simple majority to alter or end the system, and then Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, would have to sign the measure. Republican leaders in the General Assembly and Mr. Kemp have not indicated yet whether they would support changes to the runoff system.

Mr. Raffensperger also noted that Georgia is one of very few states that still use a runoff system for general elections. Louisiana is the only other state that requires a runoff in a general election if no candidate receives at least 50 percent of the vote. The system is a relic of Jim Crow-era laws that aimed to limit Black voters’ political power.

In recent years, however, Georgia Democrats have won several high-profile runoff victories, including that of Senator Raphael Warnock against Herschel Walker last week. That race had soaring turnout that led to long lines at precincts in heavily populated, Democratic-leaning counties. Democrats also successfully sued to hold early voting for an extra day on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

In an interview with The New York Times on Friday, Mr. Raffensperger said that his office would present several proposed runoff changes to the state legislature when it reconvenes in January. They include mandating that larger counties open more voting locations to cut down wait times, lowering the threshold needed to win an election outright to 45 percent from 50 percent and instituting a ranked-choice instant-runoff system that would not require voters to return to the polls after the general election.

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