Campus Reform | Profs argue Georgia runoffs are racist

Profs argue Georgia runoffs are racist

Multiple professors argued that the history of the Georgia runoff system is racist in nature.

One noted that modern runoff elections are “difficult for Black communities” because of transportation difficulties, motivating turnout, and other factors that “dampen Black participation.”

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Morehouse College professor Adrienne Jones and Southern Methodist University professor Cal Jillson explained that the history of the Georgia runoff elections is racist in nature. When asked whether the modern runoff system is “undergirded in racist intent,” Jones noted that runoffs continue to be “difficult for black communities.”

In an interview with Boston’s NPR network, Jones reacted to an audio clip of a former state legislator who had lost his seat after the vote was split between himself, another White candidate, and a Black candidate. She said that his comments sounded like President Donald Trump’s phone call with the Georgia Secretary of State because Trump “couldn’t believe that he lost his race” and “demanded a recount.”

Jillson added that after the county unit system — which skewed voting power away from majority African-American regions and toward predominantly White regions of the state — was declared unconstitutional, Georgia added the runoff system.

He explained that this occurred as part of the trend of federal courts outlawing “various elements of the Jim Crow” electoral system, followed by state officials finding new ways to continue Jim Crow practices.

“As an element of it was struck down by the courts or the Congress, new elements were added,” explained Jillson. The podcast host then asked whether it is fair to say that the modern Georgia runoff system is “undergirded by racist intent.” 

Jones agreed, stating “there is racist intent there,” and added that the effect of the system is that “Democrats don’t win runoffs” in Georgia. She added that “runoffs are difficult for Black communities,” referring to transportation difficulties, motivating turnout, and other factors that “dampen Black participation.”

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The podcast refers listeners to an article by Westminster College professor Joshua Holzer, entitled, “A brief history of Georgia’s runoff voting — and its racist roots.”

Holzer explains that proponents of plurality voting argue that it is “simple to understand and easy to implement,” while “advocates of runoff voting counter that their system ensures that those elected have the support of a majority of voters.”

However, “as Georgia’s history demonstrates... adopting a system that requires the support of the majority can sometimes be used to engineer the exclusion of those in the minority.”

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“The fear among Whites was that if elections were left to plurality voting, the White vote could be split among several different candidates, while African Americans could — in theory — vote as a single bloc for an African American candidate, who could end up winning with the most votes overall,” explained Holzer.

Campus Reform reached out to Jones, Jillson, and Holzer for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft