2020 Vision: The Georgia Senate Runoff Explained


Bella Martin, Sports Editor

Welcome back to The Panther’s 2020 Vision Election Blog! The Georgia Senate runoff election has gained a lot of traction in national news since Election Day on Nov. 3. Here is everything you need to know about it: 

What is a runoff election? 

A runoff election is a second election held after no candidate meets the criteria for winning in the first, official election. In Georgia and other states – including Florida – the law states that a candidate must obtain a majority of the votes in order to win the election. If the election results in a plurality, in other words, no candidate gets more than 50% of the votes, the top-two candidates must face off in a runoff election. 

What happened in the Georgia Senate elections? 

Unusually, two Senate seats were up for grabs in the 2020 Georgia state elections. First elected in 2014, Republican Senator David Perdue ran for re-election in November after his six-year term finished. He faced Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff. On Nov. 3, Perdue received 49.7% of the votes while Ossoff received 47.9%. As neither one of the candidates received a majority, the election advanced to a runoff. 

After a Republican senator retired last year, a second seat in the Georgia Senate became open. Georgia’s governor, Brian Kemp, appointed Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler and ran for election to a full term. In a special election, she faced another Republican candidate Doug Collins and Democratic candidate Raphael Warnock. In November, Loeffler received 25.9% of the votes, while Warnock received 32.9% and Collins received 20%. Since Loeffler and Warnock received the two highest votes, but not the majority, the election advanced to another runoff. 

Both of these elections will be held on Jan. 5, but early in-person voting started on Dec. 15. Eligible citizens in Georgia can also vote by mail. 

Why is this runoff so important?

In this year’s November election, early polls projected the Democratic party to easily flip the Senate. However, even with great Democratic victories in states such as Colorado and Arizona, Republicans garnered more support than expected and held their place in key races. Currently, the Republicans have 50 seats in the 100-member chamber while the Democrats have 48 seats. With this, the Democratic party now needs to win both Georgia Senate races in order to get a 50-50 tie in the Senate. 

According to the U.S. Constitution, when the Senate elections result in a tie between parties, the Vice President (in this case, current Democratic Vice-President Elect Kamala Harris) must cast the tie-breaking vote. With Harris’s vote, the Democrats can indeed regain control of the Senate. If Democrats lose one or both of the Senate races, Republicans maintain control. 

Right now, both races are extremely close. According to the polls added on Dec. 17 on FiveThirtyEight, in the Perdue-Ossoff race, Perdue polls at 51% and Ossoff polls at 47%. Similarly, in the Loeffler-Warnock race, Loeffler polls at 50% while Warnock polls at 48%.Explained: The Georgia Senate Runoff