From today’s PBS News:
Georgia’s Dec. 6 runoff election pitting Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock against Republican Herschel Walker is historic for having two Black candidates representing major parties on that state’s ballot. But the voting law that mandated a runoff when neither candidate won a majority in November’s election is actually a vestige of racist legislation.
Since the 1960s, Georgia’s majority voting law has required a candidate get 50 percent of the vote or more in order to be declared the winner, and was introduced by a staunch segregationist legislator named Denmark Groover. Even now, the law “makes it more difficult for any group which forms a minority in the population to elect its candidates of choice,” regardless of the candidates’ ethnicity, historian and California Institute of Technology professor Morgan Kousser told the PBS NewsHour’s Nicole Ellis.
When so-called “white-only primary” elections were deemed unconstitutional in 1946, Black voter registration surged across the South, including in Georgia. In 1940, an estimated 250,000 Black southerners were registered to vote and that number rose to 775,000 by 1948, according to data from the National Park Service.
When Groover lost reelection to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1958 despite winning the majority of the white vote, data from segregated polling places in Macon revealed that Black voters contributed to the upset victory by his opponent, Kousser said. In his book, “Colorblind Injustice: Minority Voting Rights and the Undoing of the Second Reconstruction,” Kousser writes that Groover’s opponent “triumphed by garnering black ballots by a five-to-one margin.”
As part of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, advocates, judges, and policymakers pressed for expanded and more equitable voting rights. Fear of losing white political supremacy prompted some white state and local legislators to move strategically to protect their racial agency in politics.
Read the complete story here.