Senate Democrats’ Majority Rests on a “Jim Crow Relic”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, wants to spend January ramming through Democrats’ federal election takeover. But to do so, he and far-left Democrats must undermine or repeal the Senate filibuster.
Schumer has pledged that, if Republicans do not allow the election takeover to pass, “the Senate will debate and consider changes to Senate rules on or before January 17, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.” Schumer’s gambit attempts to put more pressure on Democrats to abolish the filibuster, which Barack Obama called a “Jim Crow relic” in 2020. But his efforts ignore an inconvenient truth: Democrats only captured the Senate majority because of an anomalous Georgia election system created by segregationist Democrats in the 1960s.
On November 3, 2020, incumbent Sen. David Perdue, a Republican, received 2,462,617 votes for re-election. His Democratic challenger, Jon Ossoff, received 2,374,519 votes.
In 48 other states, Perdue’s margin of more than 88,000 votes over Ossoff—but just short of an outright majority—would have won him six more years in the Senate. But not in Georgia, whose electoral system went through a series of changes during the civil rights era, as white Democrats fought to retain their power base.
Runoffs Imposed by Segregationist Democrats
From 1917 through the 1960s, Georgia’s statewide elections operated on the county unit system. Under the system, each county received an allocation of unit votes, which were awarded to the candidate receiving the highest number of votes in that county. But the smallest counties controlled a majority of county votes, despite comprising only one-third of the population. In 1963, the Supreme Court in Gray v. Sanders struck down Georgia’s county unit voting system as unconstitutional.
In 1964, state Sen. Denmark Groover—a Democrat who had helped pass legislation adding the Confederate battle emblem to Georgia’s state flag—crafted the two-round voting system to, as he put it, “prevent the Negro bloc vote from controlling the elections” by requiring successful candidates to obtain a majority of votes.
The runoff format eventually applied to statewide executive elections, but only after the gubernatorial election of 1966. In that controversial campaign, Republican Howard Callaway won more votes than Democrat Lester Maddox, but because neither candidate obtained a majority, the Democratic legislature elected the segregationist Maddox governor over the man who had outpolled him.
Given its checkered history, Georgia’s runoff system has drawn criticism over the years. In 1990, the Justice Department unsuccessfully sued to block the runoff system under the Voting Rights Act, claiming it discriminated against African-American candidates.
A journal at the University of Michigan called the Georgia system “a product of institutional racism” that reflected Georgia’s “racist past.” Yet those complaints disappeared almost as soon as Ossoff upset Perdue in the runoff last January 5.
Democrats’ Situational Outrage about ‘Racism‘
But consider for a moment an outcome with the roles reversed. Imagine that the Democrat outpolled the Republican by more than 88,000 votes on Election Day, only to lose in the runoff. Assume too that, in winning the runoff, the Republican received nearly 193,000 fewer votes than the Democrat did on November 3, just as Perdue’s total in November exceeded Ossoff’s January vote count.
Does anyone believe that, under that alternative set of circumstances, leftists would not hesitate to label as racist an outcome in which the Democrat got the most votes on Election Day, and most votes overall, yet lost the election?
Consider Georgia’s own Stacey Abrams, who still tenderly nourishes her grudge about her defeat in the 2018 gubernatorial election. She testified before Congress last April that Georgia’s new election law was “racist” because it shortened the runoff period from nine weeks to four weeks. But after Ossoff’s victory in January, Abrams dared not criticize the runoff provision, lest it draw Democrats’ Senate majority into question.
Democrats’ situational ethics—ignoring the segregation-era history of Georgia’s runoff voting system when it allowed them to capture the Senate majority—reveal the crass nature of their attacks on the filibuster. Their self-righteous indignation has nothing to do with racism, and everything to do with eradicating anything in the way of leftists’ raw political power.
This post was originally published at The Federalist.