Georgia’s system was created in 1964 after the urging of Denmark Groover, who blamed Black voters for a reelection loss and proposed runoffs. Groover later acknowledged the runoff system was intended to suppress Black political representation.
While runoff elections had existed for decades in Southern primaries, Georgia’s enthusiastic adoption of two-round voting came as a way of “ensuring a conservative White candidate won an election,” said Ashton Ellett, a political historian and archivist at the University of Georgia.
“A runoff makes it harder for folks who have less resources to vote. This was before advanced in-person voting or [voting was offered] by mail and when we had many other unfair, iniquitous, undemocratic policies. It wasn’t for a partisan advantage so much as an ideological and cultural one,” Ellett said.