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Georgia's Runoff Election Aftermath

As expected, Georgia's Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss won the most votes for the second time since the November general election with Tuesday's runoff election. With the lower turnout of runoff elections, where a motivated core of conservative leaning voters will always turn out in the biggest numbers, the election was hardly any meaningful political comment on the performance of President-Elect Barack Obama so far. Polling from Rasmussen gives Obama huge favorable numbers, and the public is very hopeful that he can eventually turn around the economy. And his cabinet choices seem to satisfy a wide majority of most Americans as well. So the Georgia results must be figured as standing on their own.

The fact of the matter is that the runoff election is yet another old Dinosaur artifact of the Southern election system that should have died off years ago. The Southern election system was once plagued by a laundry list of strange election laws. In the 1930's, for example, many Southern states had a variety of election laws such as literacy tests, poll taxes, and other means that only deterred most persons, White or Black from voting, where often only around 10-12% of adults actually voted in many Southern states at this time. The runoff election seems to be another example of Southern election archaeology, where if a more progressive or reformist candidate can't win a straight out victory in the first election, then the more conservative candidate has a second chance in a runoff election where a much smaller poll of voters will vote. Such a system gives an unfair advantage to the more conservative candidate where in a second election, the turnout of many African Americans and others is usually much lower than the first election. This system also keeps many African American statewide candidates out of office as well.

Make no doubt, Georgia is a conservative leaning state. And in this case, two elections didn't shift the outcome away from Saxby Chambliss, But in the first election the outcome was much closer than the second time around because the voter pool was far different. The November election had 3.7 million voters compared to just 2.1 million for the runoff.

Georgia needs to do away with the runoff election and allow for a single primary and general election, otherwise this runoff process is little more than merely running elections until the most conservative candidate is able to win because of voter pool shopping. This isn't really democracy at all.

In Georgia elections, if at first you don't succeed and win, run and run elections until you get the desired outcome it seems.

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Comments (1)


you state that "a motivated core of conservative leaning voters will always turn out in the biggest numbers" yet give no evidence of your claim.

how, exactly, does a runoff give an unfair advantage to conservatives? liberals are just as free to be motivated and motivate others.

and "progressives" have just as much opportunity to convince the voting public to vote for them. if they fail to win, maybe it's because the voters don't like what they have to say, not because the system is rigged against them.

oh...and i like how you imply this system is racist because African Americans don't vote in the run off election. got news for you buddy...that's nobody's fault but their own.

personally, i kind of like this kind of an election. you're more likely to get 3rd party candidates to run as they are more likely to have an actual impact on the election. and may even make it into a runoff.

i will agree with you on the poll tax.

literacy test? tempting just because the number of people i have talked to who don't know squat about the issues but just vote for the one they "like". did you see the video of the guy who voted for obama but actually supported mccain's idea more? that kind of stuff scares me.


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Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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