Georgia’s racist runoff system and the Capital Attack

Illustration by Monique Rojas |The Signal

It seems Georgia can’t let go of its racist past. Whether it’s large monuments and statues dedicated to racist historical figures or the state flag bearing a strong resemblance to the first Confederate flag, Georgia has racism ingrained in its existence. The state’s election system is a clear example of this.

On Jan. 5, Georgia held a historical run-off election for not one but both of its Senate seats. While the victors, Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, were faced with a far less burden of required votes. Historically, run-offs have far lower turnout than general elections because people are unwilling to vote for a second time. 

In many cases, such as in many minority communities, people cannot vote for a second time.

Georgia’s runoff system is relatively young, having been created in 1963. The General Assembly created the 58-year-old system in response to the civil rights movement. At the time, the possibility of the Black population rallying behind a single Black candidate scared the General Assembly. If the white vote were split between two or three candidates, then the Black candidate would win. Now, they couldn’t have that, could they? 

In response, they created a system where if a candidate doesn’t win an outright majority, 50% or more, then the top two candidates will campaign yet again.

According to, “By adopting runoff voting, even if white voters split their vote in the first round and an African American somehow made it to the second round, white voters – from both parties – would still have a chance to unite behind the white candidate to ensure victory.”

You’d think this is far fetched, right? But look no further than the 2020-2021 Senate Special Election. Rev. Raphael Warnock won the first round of voting in a statistical landslide, beating runner-up incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler by 7% (343,821 votes). But because of the runoff system, the two-faced off on Jan. 5, allowing republicans to rally behind Loeffler. 

However, this time it didn’t work; Warnock beat Loeffler by over 65,000 votes, inching the Democratic Party closer to a supermajority in the federal government. 

Win or loss, this election has brought yet another aspect of Georgia’s racist systems to the limelight. John R. Dunne, who served as assistant U.S. attorney general in the Civil Rights Division, stated that the runoff system has “a demonstrably chilling effect on the ability of Blacks to become candidates for public office.” 

He’s not wrong: Not a single black person has been elected to the offices of the U.S. Senate, lieutenant governor or governor in the state’s 233-year history. With the victory of Rev. Warnock, that trend has ended. But that doesn’t mean that this racist system should continue to be ignored.

It’s not just Georgia, however, that made political history that week. On Jan. 6, the day we got the runoff’s final results, a group of domestic terrorists broke into, vandalized and ransacked the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. The situation became so dire and dangerous that Congress, who were doing their congressional duty, was sent to an undisclosed location. Mind you; this system only engages if the nation is under an immediate attack. 

What’s just as upsetting is the fact that this terrorist attack was egged on by President Trump, resulting in five deaths and an undetermined number of injuries. But it could have been far worse had the group been a minority group. Look at June 1, 2020, where National Guard members and other law enforcement members attacked protesters occupying Lafayette Square. Meanwhile, at the terrorist attack, the National Guard was not deployed until hours after the event started.

Forget your politics and views on President Trump. The Capitol building — our Capitol building, the symbol of American democracy, history and power — was attacked. People vandalized and robbed the building. They attacked police officers, military personnel, journalists and leaders. And that’s just what we know from publicly available sources! Imagine: What if they got access to classified information?

That was no protest; that was the definition of a terrorist attack.