Surprise! It was introduced by a segregationist!
Georgia appears to be all set to send two Democrats to the US Senate following yesterday's runoff elections (Rev. Raphael Warnock for sure, and probably pretty sure Jon Ossoff, too). It's a huge moment for the state where Lester Maddox was once governor. But why does Georgia even have runoff elections in the first place? Please allow us to get this feather to knock you over with: The runoff election system in Georgia is yet another leftover from the Jim Crow era. Try to pick yourself up off the floor now, please.
Back in 1963, the US Supreme Court overturned Georgia's "county unit" system for primary elections, which worked a bit like a state version of the Electoral College and gave rural counties an advantage in deciding statewide races. For most of the 20th century, of course, white segregationist Democrats dominated the South, so primary elections really decided elections, with the general elections in November largely a pro-forma exercise in defeating whatever Republican might be running.
Once the Supremes said the "county unit" primaries violated the one-person, one vote principle, Georgia adopted runoffs for primaries. Georgia even went a step further, and required that virtually all elections be decided by a majority, not a plurality, of voters. On the surface, that might ostensibly appear race-neutral: To govern, you need a majority. But as with so many voting laws ("let's have a literacy test!") it was really intended to preserve white supremacy.
The runoff system was the brainchild of one Denmark Groover, a state representative who we wish hadn't been a big ol' racist turd because "Denmark Groover" is a perfectly awesome name and he ruined it. He introduced the runoff law in 1963 to make sure that if the white vote were split among several candidates while Black voters united behind a single candidate, there'd be no chance of that Black-supported candidate winning by a plurality. With a runoff, all the white voters could vote together and negate that plurality.
Now, up until 1963, plurality voting was the norm in Georgia elections. But those interfering Supreme Court Yankees and their meddling one-person, one-vote thinking endangered white supremacy.
State Rep. James Mackay quoted Groover as having explained in a House speech that if plurality voting were allowed, like in most states, then "the Negroes and the pressure groups and special interests are going to manipulate this State and take charge."
Groover also openly advocated for the runoff proposal as a means to "prevent the Negro bloc vote from controlling the elections," in case anyone wasn't clear on the concept.
Other southern states adopted runoffs for primaries as well, but didn't bother expanding it to the general elections, presumably because they assumed no Republican would have a chance against the inevitably white candidate who won the Democratic primary. The Washington Post notes that only two non-southern states have runoff systems, but that they "almost never matter":
In South Dakota, candidates for U.S. Senate, U.S. representative and governor must compete in a runoff if no one reaches 35 percent of the vote. In Vermont, a runoff is ordered if two candidates finish with the same number of votes.
Yr Dok Zoom will add that Arizona briefly flirted with a runoff in the late '80s: After horrorshow incompetent Ev Mecham became governor by winning with a plurality in 1986, voters passed a 1988 initiative requiring a runoff if no candidate got a majority, but after one boring runoff in 1990, they went right ahead and repealed it.
As the Arizona example suggests, runoffs aren't inherently racist, but in Georgia and throughout the South in the '60s, they were sure as hell intended to be. Southern Methodist University prof Cal Jillson told the Post that white Southern segregationists' own writings and speeches of the day made their intention perfectly clear:
"People had no misgivings about stating their real intentions and stating them in racial terms," Jillson said. "The stuff that no longer passes Anglo lips, they were more than comfortable in saying."
But does Georgia's runoff system still give an advantage to white candidates? In 1990, when the Justice Department still considered racism bad sometimes, the DOJ actually tried to get rid of it in a civil rights lawsuit, as Vox explains:
Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights John R. Dunne told the Los Angeles Times at the time that the runoff system has had "a demonstrably chilling effect on the ability of blacks to become candidates for public office," and called the requirement "an electoral steroid for white candidates."
The Justice Department cited elections in more than 20 Georgia counties "where at least 35 black candidates won the most votes in their initial primaries, but then lost in runoffs as voters coalesced around a white opponent."
Ultimately, though, in 1998, when the case went to trial in federal court, the plaintiffs lost. While the court agreed that "the virus of race-consciousness was in the air" when Georgia adopted the law, the plaintiffs couldn't prove that the process was still "infected thusly." More Vox:
The only large data set presented in the case came from the state of Georgia's expert witness. He looked at Georgia's primary elections from 1970 to 1995 and found that there were 278 runoffs involving a Black candidate running against a white candidate. In 85 of these cases, the candidate who won the plurality of votes in the initial primary lost in the runoff. 65 percent of those cases featured a Black candidate losing in the runoff after their initial victory. However, the defendants convinced the court that "the disparity of outcomes ... was attributable to the relative strength of individual candidates," not due to the unfairness of the runoff system.
In general, we're not fans of the runoff system, since it has that taint of past fuckery. On the other hand, it's also worth noting that under a plurality system, Raphael Warnock would have immediately gone to the US Senate after November's election. But David Perdue would have kept his seat, too, and Mitch McConnell would be Senate majority leader for at least two more years.
That said (we're running out of hands), if 2020 hadn't also included two months of Donald Trump convincing Georgia Republicans their votes didn't matter, the runoffs might also have reelected both Perdue and Kelly Loeffler.
Yr Wonkette is funded entirely by reader donations! Please, if you can, don't run off without setting up a monthly donation of $5 to $10.
WE FUCKING DID IT. We just sent Senator Kelly Loeffler packing. And God willing and the crick don't rise, that bony sack of racist crap will take her self-dealing buddy Senator David Perdue with her. Come on DeKalb County!
As of this typing, Dave Wasserman has seen enough in the special election. Rev. Raphael Warnock will soon be Senator Raphael Warnock (D-Georgia), and Kelly Loeffler will go back to being an evil gazillionaire who eats puppies (probably), is despised by the WNBA team she owns (definitely), and spends the rest of her miserable life trying to wash off that Trump stink (we hope).
Welcome to the New South, and welcome to the Sunbelt Strategy.
Maybe shouting SOCIALISM! over and over and over like a demented Barbie doll while attacking Black churches is a lousy electoral strategy when one-third of the electorate is Black and at least some of the other two-thirds are not raging, racist assholes? It's a possibility! And one that Kelly Loeffler is going to have lots of time to ponder. BYE, GIRL!
Senator-elect Warnock — and Your Wonkette is delighted to call him that! — will be the first Black senator from Georgia ever, and the first Black senator from a Confederate State to take his seat by election, rather than appointment. He grew up poor, the eleventh of 12 children, going on to become a pastor in Martin Luther King's Ebenezer Baptist Church, and delivering a benediction at Barack Obama's second inauguration. This is a fundamentally good and decent man, whom Georgians are lucky to have representing them in the senate.
Thank you, Georgia!
As for Jon Ossoff, we won't torture you with screenshots of THE NEEDLE, and we may be fighting this one out a couple more days. But things look pretty good for the 33-year-old investigative journalist who looks likely to end David Perdue's Senate career. And indeed it would be poetry if the guy who lost to Karen Handel in the contest to take over Tom Price's term in 2017 wound up clinching the Senate majority for Democrats by beating a stuffed shirt like David Perdue. Remember when Ossoff's $23 million House race seemed scandalously expensive? We were so young!
Meanwhile Karen Handel is gone, thanks to Lucy McBath. Mitch McConnell's gavel is slipping away by the second. And Trump is on the way out the door.
What's that? Loser says WHAT?
Looks like they are setting up a big “voter dump” against the Republican candidates. Waiting to see how many votes they need?— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump) 1609903716.0
Hahahaha, fuck off. Although, he's probably right about one thing. Well, right-ish. Remember last week when that whiner tweeted, "I saved at least 8 Republican Senators, including Mitch, from losing in the last Rigged (for President) Election"? Well, guess what? Without the greatest turnout machine ever invented on the ballot — we'll give him that one for sure — guess who didn't show up today?
That's right, it was REPUBLICANS. In county after county, GOP turnout was down compared to November. And in those tight races, that's what took out Kelly Loeffler and probably David Perdue.
So, thanks, President Trump. Without 10 weeks of histrionics and attacks on Republican leaders in Georgia and setting your own goddamn house on fire, this probably wouldn't have happened.
UPDATE: OMGGGG, WE WON! This four-year waking nightmare is almost over. We're about to control the House, and the Senate, and the White House.
I've seen enough. Jon Ossoff (D) defeats Sen. David Perdue (R) in GA's other Senate runoff. #GASEN Democrats win control of the Senate.— Dave Wasserman (@Dave Wasserman) 1609908823.0
Mitch McConnell will be Minority Leader, and Chuck Schumer will take the gavel to become Majority Leader. And, please, do not start shitting on Schumer, because now is the time we just breathe, and cry, and congratulate ourselves on surviving the past four years. We made it to the other side, and nothing that happens tomorrow will change that.
It's over. We did it. Good night.
Follow Liz Dye on Twitter RIGHT HERE!
Please click here to support your Wonkette. And if you're ordering your quarantine goods on Amazon, this is the link to do it.
Take a breath now and then, OK?
We hear there's an election in Georgia today, so we thought we should probably get you up to date on where things stand right now. The state's early voting, both in-person and by mail, has set a big whopping record for a runoff election, with more than three million ballots cast before the polls opened this morning. That's roughly 38.8 percent of all registered voters in the state.
Oh! And here's a little-known fact that you may not have heard: If Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock, the Democrats in the runoff for US Senate, win today, that would mean Democrats would take over control of the Senate. Gosh, we sure hope someone has let Georgia voters know that, because it sounds important.
Donald Trump marked the occasion with some baldfaced lying, because he wanted to help. After a minor issue with voting machines in Columbia County required voters to use paper ballots for a short time, Trump took to Twitter to claim that "Dominion Machines are not working in certain Republican Strongholds for over an hour," adding he sure hoped the Republican votes would be counted. Local TV reported that the issue had actually been resolved for hours by the time Trump sent out his tweet, not that that would be any reason not to stoke fears of a rigged election. You know, another rigged election.
Gabriel Sterling, the "voter system implementation manager" for the Georgia Secretary of State's office, tweeted that Trump was far behind reality, which would be very on-brand.
And this issue in Columbia Co. was resolved hours ago and our office informed the public about it in real time. The… https://t.co/haofoSwtjY— Gabriel Sterling (@Gabriel Sterling) 1609872023.0
And compared to both the 2020 primary and general elections, there were very few lines to vote; Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said in the early afternoon that average wait times to vote were about a minute statewide, with the longest waits reported only about 30 minutes. All that early voting helped!
The New York Times notes,
Kristen Clarke, executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said the most common complaint reported to a hotline run by her organization was that some voters failed to receive mail ballots before the Election Day deadline.
"Many voters across the state availed themselves of the opportunity to participate in early voting," said Ms. Clarke. "We are not surprised that we are not seeing poll sites flooded with large overwhelming numbers of voters today."
So that's good! Just remember: Raffensperger wants to be seen as running a tight electoral ship for the sake of saying he does his job well. He's not especially committed to democracy.
Also probably good, the Times reports that, with just two Senate races (and the all-important runoff for the state Public Service Commission, the board that regulates utilities), the vote is likely to be tabulated more quickly than in November, though it might be a stretch to expect final results tonight. Also too, in a change from the fall, the state Elections Board ordered counties after the November general election to start processing absentee and early ballots a week before election day, so a lot of the most time-intensive work like verifying signatures and such will be already done once the polls close.
If the Democrats win, of course, that will be cited as a horrifying irregularity that throws the results into doubt.
Our advice for this evening: Don't stay glued to the TV all night, because even if there is a call tonight, it's not going to come in prime time.
We will, of course, be completely unable to follow our own advice. Good luck, Georgia! OPEN THREAD!
Yr Wonkette is funded entirely by reader donations. If you can, please donate $5 to $10 a month and we'll all bite our nails together!
It's your first Sunday show rundown of 2021!
2020 sucked in all the worst possible ways, and it seems 2021 will begin with 2020's death throes. So with that said, let's take a look at the first Sunday shows of 2021!
We begin with GOP Senator Ron Johnson, Wonkette's 2020 Legislative Shitheel and Senate's Dumbest Republican. Appearing on NBC's "Meet The Press," Johnson defended his titles while making (gasp!) Chuck Todd do his first journalism of 2021:
Last week, GOP Senator Josh Hawley was first to announce he'd try to do a coup on January 6 when Congress meets to certify the Electoral College votes. Shortly after, he was followed by 11 other senators and senators-elect, including Ron Johnson and Ted Cruz. The Coup D'etat Twelve plan on trying to heist democracy Wednesday as lazily as possible. Chuck Todd asked about their plot and, after trying a brief non sequitur about Covid testing, Johnson spouted the same bullshit talking point they all have.
JOHNSON: The fact of the matter is that we have an unsustainable state of affairs in this country where we have tens of millions of people that do not view this election result as legitimate.
Todd noted the inherent flaw in this premise Republicans have been setting up ever since Trump lost:
TODD: [W]hat you're alleging is, essentially you and your colleagues have created this controversy. So right now, we are locked into a destructive, vicious circle, in some ways as you kind of outlined, except -- which is, you made an allegation that there was widespread fraud. You have failed to offer specific evidence of that widespread fraud. But you're demanding an investigation on the grounds that there are allegations of widespread fraud. So essentially, you're the arsonist here. President Trump is the arsonist here. [...] You've started this fire. And now you're saying, "Whoa, look at this. Oh my God. All these people believe what we told them," because you didn't have the guts to tell the truth that this election was fair.
Todd was right! (Ouch, that hurts to say!) Republicans assert baseless, unproven allegations over and over, then when their rubes believe the MAGA Cinematic Universe reality they created in which the election results are illegitimate, they act incredulous that their supporters believe this and want investigations to prove a negative.
Johnson tried to filibuster, but Todd, to his credit, asked Johnson the right questions:
TODD: Let me ask you this. Then why didn't you hold hearings about the 9/11 truthers? There's plenty of people who thought 9/11 was an inside job. So you're basically saying is --
JOHNSON: I mean, Chuck --
TODD: -- if there's enough people who believe a conspiracy theory --
JOHNSON: -- I could have held hearings on all kinds of things. I held hearings on -- [HE HELD HEARINGS ON LITERAL RUSSIAN PROPAGANDA ABOUT THE BIDENS, TO TRY TO MAKE PEOPLE BELIEVE IT -- Ed.]
TODD: If there's enough people who hold --
JOHNSON: -- what I figured was the most relevant issues --
TODD: Are you going to do a -- how about the Moon landing --
JOHNSON: And obviously this election --
TODD: Are you going to hold hearings on that?
Johnson's face showed he was not prepared for THIS version of Chuck Todd but the usual "both sides" sentient goatee one.
Todd tossed Johnson back into the scum-filled pond from whence he came.
TODD: You've got to ask yourself when you tell people a million times that something was stolen or something was fraud and then they believe it, I think you need to look in the mirror and ask yourself why so many people believe this.
Even if they'd "look themselves in the mirror," Chuck, I doubt they'd cast a reflection.
Over on CNN's "State of The Union," Jake Tapper interviewed Ohio GOP Governor Mike DeWine, who proved that just because he is not as much of a weasel as Johnson, Cruz or Hawley doesn't mean he's not still a weasel.
DeWine: "We have a lot of people in this country who are very concerned–" @JakeTapper: "Because they have been lie… https://t.co/OczKxvjmYL— Brian Stelter (@Brian Stelter) 1609684039.0
TAPPER: Republican Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska says the president and his allies, by fomenting this effort to vote against Joe Biden's legitimate win, he says they're -- quote -- "pointing a loaded gun at the heart of legitimate self-government." Do you agree?
DEWINE: [...] Are there some problems in the system as far as potential fraud or fraud that occurred? Yes, but there's not -- we have not seen anything that rises to the level that would have changed the outcome of the election. I think Senator Portman -- you mentioned Senator Portman. I think Senator Portman has a good proposal. And that proposal is to get two very distinguished people in this country, Democrat and Republican, have a commission, and to take a hard look at voter security. [...] We have a lot of people in this country who -- who are very concerned about it.
TAPPER: Because they have been lied to, Governor.
DEWINE: And with the change in ...
TAPPER: Governor, because they have been lied to by President Trump for -- for weeks.
DeWine seemed shocked to not get the usual overblown praise from the media he's gotten for doing the bare minimum on Covid, which is a lot by Republican standards. The exchange continued.
TAPPER: But this isn't about actual allegations of legitimate fraud. This is about fomenting lies in order to undermine the democracy. It's very different.
DEWINE: Jake, you -- you can make that point, but I will go back to my point. I think it's valid as well. And what's valid about it is that we have a lot of people in this country who are questioning this election. That's a problem for us.
TAPPER: But why? Why? Why do you think they are?
DEWINE: Why? Look, you can go through why. The question for us is, what do we do about it?
Conservatives always create the problem then obsess over fixing the problem they themselves created. It's one of their things.
Screw it, just watch Jake Tapper's monologue about it. He was mad.
By the by, all this happened BEFORE Trump got caught on tape in committing ANOTHER impeachable act in his call with the Republican Georgia secretary of state.
Happy New Year?
Have a week!
Wonkette is fully funded by readers like you! If you love Wonkette, click below to FUND WONKETTE.