The Racial History Of Georgia's Runoff Elections

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Family and supporters hold runoff signs as Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Rev. Raphael Warnock speaks during an Election Night event on November 3, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)
Family and supporters hold runoff signs as Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Rev. Raphael Warnock speaks during an Election Night event on November 3, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

The winners in Georgia’s runoff election will tilt the balance of power in the U.S. Senate. So, what is a runoff election anyway and why don’t all states do it? Experts say it’s all rooted in racism and just another way to disenfranchise. We take a look.


Paula ReidWhite House correspondent for CBS News. (@PaulaReidCBS)

Jack Beatty, On Point news analyst. (@JackBeattyNPR)

Adrienne Jones, political science professor, lawyer and pre-law advisor at Morehouse College. (@adriennemjns)

Cal Jillson, professor of political science at Southern Methodist University. Author of "Pursuing the American Dream." (@SMU)

Also Featured

Charles Bullock, political science professor at the University of Georgia.

Deborah Scott, executive director of Georgia Stand-Up.

Ariel Singleton, organizer and executive assistant for Georgia Stand-Up.

From The Reading List

Washington Post: "‘I just want to find 11,780 votes’: In extraordinary hour-long call, Trump pressures Georgia secretary of state to recalculate the vote in his favor" — "President Trump urged fellow Republican Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, to 'find' enough votes to overturn his defeat in an extraordinary one-hour phone call Saturday that legal scholars described as a flagrant abuse of power and a potential criminal act."

Washington Post: "James Clyburn: Runoff elections suppress Black representation. Relegate them to the past." — "As a lifelong student and short-time teacher of history, I am often reminded that 'those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.' I can think of no period in my lifetime that better reflects that truth than the past four years."

The Conversation: "A brief history of Georgia’s runoff voting – and its racist roots" — "Across the U.S., many states use different electoral systems. That’s because the federal government doesn’t run elections: States do."

Wall Street Journal: "Georgia Senate Runoff Elections Trigger Panicked Door Knocking by Both Parties" — "Republicans and Democrats have concluded that the outcome of two runoff races here, which will determine control of the Senate, may well hinge on how their supporters reacted to November’s presidential result."

Georgia Public Broadcasting: "Battleground: Ballot Box | The History Of Racist Voting Laws In Georgia" — "On this episode of 'Battleground: Ballot Box,' we go back in time and explore the history of racist voting laws in Georgia and how the remnants of those decisions are still present today."

The Guardian: "Judge orders Georgia counties to halt voter purge ahead of Senate runoff" — "Two Georgia counties must reverse their decision to purge thousands from voter rolls in advance of the state’s 5 January runoff elections that will determine whether Democrats or Republicans control the US Senate."

New York Times: "Knocking on Two Million Doors in Georgia" — "Leveda Walker was at her home in Warner Robins, Ga., watching “Once Upon a Christmas” with her 8-year-old son, Moses, in early December when a motor-coach tour bus pulled up across the street."

Vox: "Why Georgia has runoff elections" — "America might not know which party will control the next US Senate until January — all due to Georgia’s peculiar election system rooted in the Jim Crow era."

New York Times: "U.S. Files Suit Against Georgia, Charging Bias in Election Laws" — "(1990): The Justice Department filed a lawsuit today challenging Georgia's election system, which requires candidates to participate in a runoff if none receive 50 percent of the vote in primary elections."

This program aired on January 4, 2021.


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