Elections 101

Runoffs:

Everything you need to know

You must know

State-level offices have runoffs for Primary Elections (May), but not General Elections (November)

Why?

The Primary Election in May decides which state-level candidate from each party makes it onto the November ballot. They require one candidate get a majority vote, either in the Primary or in the Primary run-off a few weeks later.

State-level candidates do not face this same rule in the November election. The candidate who receives the most votes wins outright, regardless of whether or not they got more than 50% of the vote.

 

The basics

What’s a runoff?

A runoff election is a “second” election that occurs if none of those candidates in a race got more than 50% of the vote. The two candidates with the highest number of votes advance to the runoff.

Not all offices require runoffs, and the rules vary by election cycle (Primary versus General) and type of office (state offices versus county or city offices).

Kind of Problematic

The Nitty Gritty

Runoffs can be problematic. Some of the challenges are:

  • They aren’t applied equally. Some offices require them and some don’t. 
  • Voter turnout is incredibly low (dropping 50-70% from the initial race to the runoff). 
  • They’re expensive for counties to implement.

Get nerdy

Legalese

Want to read the code associated with runoff elections? Here you go.

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