The Rundown on Runoffs
With many voters crossing party lines, many are unclear about the rules regarding runoffs
With the heated sheriff’s race likely to drive a considerable number of Richmond County Republicans to pick up Democratic ballots on July 31, this year’s primary promises to be confusing to voters, especially considering the fact that chances are good the two most followed races will end in runoffs.
“I don’t recall a time when there has been such good, interesting, contested races on both party’s primary ballots,” says Lynn Bailey, executive director of the Richmond County Board of Elections.
According to Bailey, interest in the sheriff’s race and the 12th Congressional District Republican primary will likely drive numbers way up.
“The last two primaries — 2008 and 2010 — we had a 23.6 and a 14.5 percent turnout,” she says. “I think this one, from what we’ve been seeing so far, will probably be somewhere around 30 percent, give or take.”
Larger numbers mean more voters unschooled in the primary process.
“Voting in a primary can be a bit tricky in a lot of people’s minds,” she says. “It’s the whole having to choose a party thing. It throws people off.”
Typically, voters choose their ballots according to their party affiliation, but given the races this year, many will find themselves strategizing, and most are uncertain how a runoff might affect their vote.
In order for a candidate to be the outright winner, he or she would have to receive 50 percent plus one vote. Otherwise, the top two vote getters face off in a runoff, which for the upcoming primary will be August 21.
Voters, however, are bound by their initial decision, Bailey says. Whichever party’s primary a voter participates in initially, that voter will have to stick with the same party through the runoff.
“In other words, you can’t switch midstream,” she says. “The runoff would be an extension of the initial election.”
Voters who do not vote in the primary are eligible to vote in whatever party’s runoff they choose because they did not declare a party. The same is true for those who initially vote non partisan — they can choose to vote in a party’s runoff election because they did not declare a party in the initial primary and the candidates they have to choose from are only the non-partisan ones.
Bailey says she’s seen considerable confusion throughout early voting, especially among Republican voters, who choose a Republican ballot, then change to a Democrat ballot when they don’t see the sheriff’s candidates they’re looking for.
Scott Peebles, Richard Roundtree, Robbie Silas and John Ivey are running as Democrats, while Freddie Sanders and Michael Godowns are running as Republicans.
“It’s been a tough choice for voters here in Richmond County to make this go around,” Bailey says. “To choose between participating in the Congressional race and the sheriff’s race — it’s been tough. Once you get to November, though, you can do whatever you want. Your vote in the primary has nothing whatsoever to do with your vote in November.”
As for Richmond County’s commission and school board races, voters won’t be able to weigh in on those until November. Candidate qualifying, however, will open up at 9 a.m. on Monday, August 6, and close at noon on Wednesday, August 8.
Had redistricting proceeded as anticipated, candidates for these offices would have qualified with the rest of the candidates in May.
Any runoffs needed for these offices will occur on December 4. You Might Also Like: