Georgia cities could choose to do away with local runoffs

Albany voters waiting in line to cast their ballots ahead of the Georgia Senate runoff election
Albany voters waiting in line to cast their ballots ahead of the Georgia Senate runoff election(Source: WALB)
Published: Feb. 3, 2023 at 6:09 PM EST
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - House Bill 200 would allow for cities to choose between runoff elections and instant runoffs- or ranked-choice voting, where a candidate can rank their choices to pick the winner to avoid heading back to the polls.

Republican representative Joseph Gullett is one of the sponsors of the bill. He had sponsored a similar bill last year, but it didn’t go to a vote.

“If cities do not want it, if it’s not for your city, there’s nothing making you do it, there are no mandates. They don’t have to do it. They can do it and hate it and go back to the way it was. It’s completely up to them.” said Gullett.

Gullett says runoff elections can be costly for cities. Kennesaw State researchers estimate 2020′s runoffs cost $75 million across the state.

The bill wouldn’t affect statewide or county elections, just local.

“At the moment, I’m not even sure if it’s a good idea across the state. That’s something it’s talked about a lot. But that’s not the goal- let’s just try it with cities and see what happens,” said Gullett.

A recent poll from Better Ballot- shows more than half of Georgians want to do away with runoffs. Bill Bozarth with Better Ballot said sometimes voters don’t come back.

“Everybody has to go back to the polls a month later, it costs money, it cost energy from the populace,” said Bozarth.

16 states have some sort of ranked-choice voting option- whether that’s at the state, federal, or local level. Bozarth said research shows it creates more civil discourse

“If I’m running on a slate of candidates there, maybe there’s five of them, I not only have to appeal to the people that will naturally vote for me. I’d like to have a message that appeals to the people that might make their second choice,” said Bozarth.