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How a runoff is different from a recount in Georgia

Here's the difference between a runoff and a recount.

ATLANTA — Election season is upon us as early voting for the May primaries commences. 

Some Georgia races are expected to be close calls, and they have the potential to warrant a runoff -- not to be mistaken for a recount. 

So, what exactly is a runoff and how is it different from a recount?

Runoff elections are held when no candidate wins the required majority of votes. In a runoff election, voters are asked to turn out to the polls again to cast their ballot for their preferred candidate after the primary or general election date.

RELATED: Early voting begins in Georgia primaries | Everything you need to know

In the Peach State, the leading candidate must clear the 50% + 1 vote threshold to avoid a runoff. It basically means the candidate has to have more than half the votes to win outright.

Runoff elections are mandatory in Georgia if a candidate doesn't win the majority of the vote. Only the top two finishers in the primary or general election advance to the runoff.

Any race, whether a citywide one such as for City Council president or at-large City Council and Board of Education posts, or district races for the council and education board, could require a runoff.

Georgia’s runoff elections are a vestige of Jim Crow era politics – when lawmakers created a system that ensured elections could narrow down pluralities to ensure a majority could elect white candidates.

A runoff is completely different from a recount, which is literally a recount of votes that have already been cast. While runoff elections are required, Georgia state law indicates an automatic recount of votes is not. A recount must be requested. 

Because of House Bill 316, which was signed into law in 2019, a candidate can request a recount of votes if the margin of election results is less than or equal to 0.5%. 

The candidate can only make that recount request within two days of election result certification.

Election officials and the Secretary of State can also ask for a recount. 

An election official can ask for a recount if there is a suspected error or discrepancy in the returns. If a candidate for federal or state office petitions the Secretary of State regarding a suspected error or discrepancy, the Secretary of State can ask for a recount.