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Opinion: Time to abandon Georgia’s runoff voting system
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U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock makes a campaign stop Sunday, Dec 4, 2022, at St. John St. John Baptist Church. Warnock is running against Herschel Walker for one of Georgia's two U.S. Senate seats. - photo by Scott Rogers

When I was a news director in Beaumont-Port Arthur, Texas, in the mid-‘90s we covered the race between incumbent Congressman Jack Brooks and Steve Stockman. The 21-term Brooks lost the race. We asked Brooks why he thought he lost. He replied: “The other guy got more votes than I did.” Perhaps the best election analysis I’ve ever heard.

Then this past fall Sen. Rafael Warnock got the most votes when he ran against challengers Herschel Walker and Chase Oliver. But he didn’t win. Georgia law dictates a candidate needs to win 50% plus one vote of total votes cast. This law has segregationist roots dating back to the 1960s. Google “Denmark Groover.”

Walker got 49.44% of the vote.

You’ll note I’m not including party affiliations. My point is about — and let’s call it what it is — a dumb law.

Imagine if Georgia won the national championship by only one point. (Instead of 58.) Then the NCAA said it didn’t win by enough so it has to play the game again. Or Chase Elliott winning the Daytona 500 by half a car length but then NASCAR telling him he didn’t win by enough so they have to run the race again.

Warnock didn’t win by enough, so we had to have a run-off. Tens of millions of more dollars spent, countless political ads and campaign appearances and so much “analysis” by political pundits. We got to vote. Again.

Warnock won the run-off, this time with 51.4% of the vote. He got more votes than the other guy. Again. Whew!

Here’s another reason the 50%+1 rule needs to go: We’re going to see more and more third-party or independent candidates. A growing and very significant number of voters across the country are getting sick of both the “major” parties pointing fingers at each other and yelling and not getting anything done. 

Georgia needs to dump this dumb rule. Let the candidate who gets the most votes win. It’s the 21st century, not the 1960s.

Brian Olson