A closer look at turnout in Georgia’s statewide runoff elections

Although most of the nation’s focus during the Jan. 5 Georgia runoffs was on the two U.S. Senate seats, there was one other runoff that didn’t receive as much attention. Voters in Georgia also decided the District 4 race for the state Public Utilities Commission (PSC), which resulted in a first for the Peach State. 

Incumbent Bubba McDonald (R) defeated challenger Daniel Blackman (D). McDonald’s victory in the 2020 runoffs marks the first time that both a Democrat and Republican have won in the same statewide runoff election in Georgia. In the two U. S. Senate runoffs, Democratic challengers Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff each won.

McDonald received the most votes of any Republican candidate in the runoffs, whereas his opponent, Blackman, received the fewest votes of any Democratic candidate.

Unlike previous runoffs, the PSC runoff in 2020 also had the greatest level of parity compared to the U.S. Senate runoffs. Compared to the previous years where both positions advanced to a runoff (1992 and 2008), the overall turnout in the 2020 PSC runoff was 49,257 votes (1.1%) less than the highest-turnout U.S. Senate race. Historically, runoff elections for PSC have had a lower turnout than those for the Senate when the two appear on the same ballot. 

To learn more about the PSC election, click here.

To learn more about the two U.S. Senate runoffs, click here.

Election still undecided in New York’s 22nd Congressional District

Results in the Nov. 3 U.S. House election in New York’s 22nd Congressional District have not yet been certified. The latest vote count, completed on Dec. 30, showed former Rep. Claudia Tenney (R) with a 29-vote lead over incumbent Anthony Brindisi (D). This race was one of 56 U.S. House rematches from 2018, when Brindisi defeated Tenney 51% to 49%.

Litigation over the validity of certain absentee and affidavit ballots began the day following the election and is ongoing. Problems with mislaid ballots, missing documentation of ballot challenges, and errors in vote tabulation slowed the process.

Oswego County Supreme Court Justice Scott DelConte has not made a final ruling on these issues, and official results have not been certified. DelConte also asked both campaigns to file legal briefs by Jan. 14 on 2,418 voter registration applications submitted through the Department of Motor Vehicles that the county board of elections did not process before election day. These voters had the option to cast an affidavit ballot, but these ballots weren’t counted since it appeared the voters weren’t registered. At least 63 affidavit ballots from this group are being reviewed.

Final oral arguments on all court proceedings in the case are scheduled for Jan. 22.

Here are some other recent elections where the result was not confirmed until weeks after the elections:

  1. In 2018, the North Carolina Board of Elections did not certify the results in the 9th Congressional District race and voted unanimously to call for a new election on Feb. 21, 2019. Rep. Dan Bishop (R) won the special election on Sept. 10, 2019. 
  2. In the 2016 North Carolina governor’s race, incumbent Pat McCrory (R) conceded on Dec. 5, 2016, after a recount in Durham County verified that Roy Cooper (D) would remain ahead. 
  3. In 2014, Martha McSally (R) was declared the winner over incumbent Ron Barber (D) in Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District at the conclusion of a recount on Dec. 17, 2014.

Voters to decide Georgia’s U.S. Senate races

Georgia was the only state to hold two Senate elections in 2020. In addition to the regularly scheduled election for the seat David Perdue (R) won in 2014, a special election was held to fill the rest of retired Sen. Johnny Isakson’s (R) term. Both races advanced to runoffs as no candidate received a majority of votes in the Nov. 3 elections.

If Republicans win at least one of the Senate elections, they’ll retain a majority in the chamber. Democrats would need to win both elections to reach a 50-50 split, which would give them effective control as Vice President-elect Kamala Harris (D) would serve as a tie-breaker for Senate votes.

The Senate seat Perdue held is currently vacant as his term ended Jan. 3. The seat will remain vacant until the runoff election results are certified. He faces Jon Ossoff (D). Kelly Loeffler (R) was appointed to the seat Isakson vacated and will fill it in her appointed capacity until the special election winner, either herself or Raphael Warnock (D), is decided. 

Perdue and Loeffler say they have delivered relief for Georgia amid the pandemic and that their opponents would work toward socialist policies if elected. Ossoff and Warnock say they would work to make progress on healthcare and COVID-19 recovery, and they have criticized their opponents’ stock trading amid the pandemic. Click the links below for more on candidates’ backgrounds, key messages, and policy proposals.

As of Jan. 1, 3 million people had cast runoff ballots, compared to 3.9 million at the same point ahead of the Nov. 3 elections in Georgia.

In both races, Democratic candidates led in total election cycle fundraising as of Dec. 16. Ossoff raised $140 million to Perdue’s $90 million. Warnock raised $125 million to Loeffler’s $92 million. The majority of candidates’ fundraising occurred in the reporting period from Oct. 15 to Dec. 16:

  • Ossoff: $107 million
  • Warnock: $103 million
  • Perdue: $68 million
  • Loeffler: $64 million

As of December 28, satellite groups supporting the Republican candidates had spent $181 million in the runoff alone, and groups supporting the Democratic candidates had spent $63 million.

Georgia has held two runoff elections for U.S. Senate prior to this year: one in 2008 and the other in 1992.

Additional reading:

Voter turnout in 2020 increased the ballot initiative signature requirements in 10 states

Voter turnout in 2020 elections caused a change in the number of valid signatures required for initiatives and veto referendums in 10 of the 26 states with at least one form of statewide initiative or referendum.

Signature requirements are determined differently depending on the state and, in 2022, will vary from 16,961 for initiated statutes in South Dakota to 997,139 for initiated amendments in California.

The majority of states with citizen-initiated measures—16—base signature requirements on ballots cast for gubernatorial candidates in the preceding gubernatorial election. Four states base signature requirements on total ballots cast in the preceding general election. Of the remaining states, three states base requirements on registered or active voters, one state bases requirements on voters for presidential candidates within the state, one state bases requirements on votes cast for secretary of state candidates, and one state bases requirements on the state population.

Below are some of the changes to ballot measure signature requirements caused by 2020 voter turnout:

• Ballot measure signature requirements increased by a range of between 7.4% and 44.2% in ten states.

• Signature requirements in the four states that base requirements on either presidential election turnout or gubernatorial election turnout in presidential election years increased by between 7.4% and 25%.

• Signature requirements for the four states that base requirements on general election turnout increased by between 26.8% and 44.2%.

• In those four states, turnout was higher than in 2016 as well, causing between 7.6% and 25.1% higher signature requirements than following the last presidential election.

• Signature requirements in the two states that base requirements on voter registration increased by 18% and 18.6%, respectively.

• Washington’s initiative signature requirement increased by 25% to 324,516 for 2021 through 2024. Since at least 2008 when the requirement was 224,880, Washington’s requirement has increased every four years by between 2% and 7%.

• Florida’s signature requirement for citizen-initiated constitutional amendments increased to 885,396 for 2022 and 2024. Since at least 2008 when the requirement was 611,009, Florida’s requirement has increased every four years by between 1% and 12%.

Read Ballotpedia’s full analysis on initiative signature requirement changes caused by 2020 voter turnout to get all of the details.

Voter registration deadline for Georgia’s Senate runoff elections is Dec. 7

Dec. 7 is the deadline to register to vote in Georgia’s Jan. 5 runoff elections. Eligible voters may vote in the runoff even if they did not vote in the Nov. 3 general elections, as long as they are registered by the deadline.

Georgia’s regular and special Senate runoffs will determine control of the next U.S. Senate. Republicans have secured 50 seats and Democrats, 48. If Democrats win both seats, they would have effective control of the chamber as Vice President-elect Kamala Harris (D) will have the tie-breaking vote. Republicans need to win at least one race to maintain their majority in the chamber.

Incumbent David Perdue (R) and Jon Ossoff (D) are running in the regular election. Incumbent Kelly Loeffler (R) and Raphael Warnock (D) are running in the special election.

Ballotpedia’s coverage of these elections includes answers to frequently asked questions such as:

  • Why is Georgia holding runoffs for U.S. Senate?
  • Why is Georgia holding a special Senate election?
  • Can I vote early?
  • Can I vote by mail?
  • Can I vote in both races?
  • Do I have to vote in both races?

Additional reading:

Voters decide runoff elections for two school board seats in Little Rock, Arkansas

A runoff election was held on December 1 for two seats on the Little Rock School District school board in Arkansas. The general election took place on November 3, with the top two candidates in each district advancing to the runoff. The seven other seats on the board were decided in the general election.

Evelyn Hemphill Callaway defeated Tommy Branch with 67% of the unofficial election night vote for the Zone 3 seat. Vicki Hatter defeated FranSha’ Anderson with 59% of the vote for the Zone 6 seat. Callaway and Hatter will join Michael Mason, Sandrekkia Morning, Leigh Ann Wilson, Ali Noland, Norma Johnson, Greg Adams, and Jeff Wood on the newly elected board.

The nine newly elected board members will be the school district’s first elected board since 2015. In 2015, the Arkansas State Board of Education voted 5-4 to dissolve the district’s board of education following poor academic performance in six of the district’s schools. The state board of education voted in 2019 to return the school district to local governance after the election of a new board in 2020.

Ballotpedia covers school board elections in the 200 largest school districts by student enrollment and the school districts that overlap the 100 largest cities by population.

Additional reading:

Republican win certified in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District, with challenge possible

The state of Iowa certified results in the election for its 2nd Congressional District, which indicate Republicans are primed to pick up their second open seat previously held by a Democrat in the 2020 U.S. House elections. Certified results showed Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R) beating Rita Hart (D) by six votes. Hart indicated she would challenge the results of the election with the U.S. House. 

Rep. Dave Loebsack (D) did not run for re-election this cycle. The other open seat Republicans picked up was Michigan’s 3rd, currently represented by Justin Amash (L).

Under the Federal Contested Elections Act of 1969, the challenge will be referred to the House Administration Committee. If the committee recommends the matter to the full House, the chamber will decide the outcome by a majority vote. Article I, Section 5, of the U.S. Constitution establishes that each chamber of Congress “shall be the judge of the elections, returns, and qualifications of its own members.” 

Democrats currently control the House, and they are expected to maintain their majority when the next Congress convenes.

Democrats picked up three seats in open races for districts represented by Republicans: Georgia’s 7th, North Carolina’s 2nd, and North Carolina’s 6th. There are still two remaining open seat races without a clear winner.

Across all 2020 Congressional elections, 16 seats changed hands. Democrats picked up two seats in the Senate while Republicans picked up one. In the House, Democrats picked up three seats while Republicans picked up 10 seats.

37 states modified absentee/mail-in voting procedures in Nov. 3 elections

The November 3, 2020, general elections included races for president, 35 U.S. Senate seats, 435 U.S. House of Representatives seats, 120 statewide ballot measures, 165 state executive offices, state legislative seats in 86 chambers, and thousands of local offices and ballot measures.

All told, 37 states modified their absentee/mail-in voting procedures for the general election. These modifications can be divided into five broad categories. Here’s a recap of all of the changes made throughout 2020.

Automatic absentee/mail-in ballots: Five states (California, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, and Vermont) automatically sent absentee/mail-in ballots to all eligible voters.

Automatic mail-in ballot applications: Eleven states (Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, New Mexico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Wisconsin) automatically sent absentee/mail-in ballot applications to all eligible voters.

Eligibility expansions: Twelve states (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia) expanded absentee/mail-in voting eligibility.

Deadline extensions: Five states (Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania) extended absentee/mail-in ballot application or submission deadlines.

Other process changes: Four states (Alaska, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia) made other modifications to their absentee/mail-in ballot procedures.

Additional reading:

Runoff election in Mississippi House district to be held Nov. 24

A special general runoff election will be held on November 24 for District 87 in the Mississippi House of Representatives. The special general election took place on November 3, with the top two candidates advancing to the runoff. Candidates in Mississippi state legislative special elections run without party labels on the ballot.

Matthew Conoly and Joseph Tubb are running in the general runoff election. The seat became vacant after the resignation of William Andrews (R) on March 31, 2020. Andrews said that he resigned from the House in order to receive the pension that he earned while serving as a county judge. He had represented the district since January 7, 2020.

Mississippi legislators are elected to four-year terms, and elections are held in odd-numbered years. All seats in the state Senate and state House are next up for regular election on November 7, 2023.

Mississippi has a Republican state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers. Republicans control the state Senate by a 36-16 margin and the state House by a 74-46 margin with one independent member and one vacancy.

As of November, 59 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2020 in 27 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.

Additional reading:

Former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder wins re-election

Incumbent Larry Householder (R) defeated four write-in candidates—Marci McCaulay (D), Jay Conrad (R), Robert Leist (L), and Kaitlyn Clark (I)—in the general election for Ohio’s House of Representatives District 72. Householder ran unopposed in the April 28 Republican primary.

On July 21, 2020, after the filing deadline for additional candidates to appear on the ballot, Householder was arrested and charged with conspiracy to participate in a racketeering scheme. He was accused of collecting more than $60 million in exchange for legislation that would bail out two nuclear plants in Ohio. The bailout was valued at $1.5 billion.

At the time of his arrest, Householder had been serving as Speaker of the House since 2019 when he defeated sitting House Speaker Ryan Smith (R). The House removed him from the position by a 90-0 vote on July 30.

In response to his arrest, on Sept. 1, Householder said, “[I]n the United States, we believe that you’re innocent until you’re proven guilty. And that day has not occurred … And so, I am innocent. I am going to defend myself vigorously.” Householder entered a plea of not guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephanie Bowman on Sept. 3.

Householder previously served in the House from 1997 to 2004, including a tenure as Speaker of the House from 2001 to 2004. He returned to the House representing District 72 in 2016 and won re-election in 2018.