GROVETOWN, HARLEM, Ga. (WJBF) – Unlike Augusta and many other municipalities, cities like Grovetown follow a plurality, or whoever-gets-the-most-votes-wins method, instead of doing runoff elections. Harlem does this too, but there is one exception.
Back in the early 2000s, Harlem adopted an ordinance stating that councilmember elections will still follow a plurality method, but mayoral candidates must receive 40% of votes or there will be a runoff.
“Our elections have ran smooth you know since that point, our mayors have served multiple terms, and you know it’s just been good, clean races,” said Debra Moore, the Harlem City Manager.
Meanwhile, Grovetown has used the winner-takes-all method since it became a city back in the 1800s.
“While the Columbia County Board of Elections does oversee the process of elections and they physically conduct them, the city of Grovetown is able to decide how elections are decided,” said Jordan Johnson, the Public Information Officer for Grovetown.
It’s legal due to population size. Georgia Code states all candidates in a city with a population of more than 100,000 must receive the majority of votes cast or there will be a runoff.
Meaning, because Harlem and Grovetown are smaller than that, candidates do not need more than 50% of the votes in a race with more than two candidates. They just need the MOST votes of all the candidates.
“There are other unincorporated areas of Grovetown that are not within the city limits, that’s something that voters should definitely be aware of when voting in these local elections,” Johnson said.
According to the 2020 U.S. Census, Grovetown and Harlem’s populations added together is only about 38,000.
“I’m sure there are pros and cons with any type of election that you hold, but I think with a plurality vote it’s just a little bit simpler,” Johnson said. “It’s easier for the constituents to understand, and it’s easier for folks to just go in, cast their vote, and be done with the election.”
He said they don’t foresee this ordinance changing any time in the future, but people who live in Grovetown can voice any questions or concerns at the city council meetings.