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Why Georgia could go to a runoff even if Brian Kemp manages a narrow lead

“Math is on our side,” declared Brian Kemp, the Republican candidate for governor in Georgia, when he addressed supporters early Wednesday.

He’s right: Kemp has a narrow lead over his Democratic opponent, Stacey Abrams, but that may not be enough. Not in Georgia.

The Peach State is one of a number of states that require a runoff if no candidate receives a majority of the vote in a primary election. But Georgia is unique in also applying this rule to the general election.

If an absolute majority isn’t reached, Abrams and Kemp would meet again Dec. 4 — in a rematch of a bitter contest marked by allegations of racism and voter suppression. It would be the first general election race for governor to require a runoff, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

While Kemp was just shy of 51 percent as reported votes approached 3.8 million, according to the Associated Press, the Abrams campaign said there were too many outstanding ballots to certify a result. Abrams, addressing supporters, pointed in particular to absentee and provisional ballots that had yet to be counted as she refused to concede.

“There are voices that are waiting to be heard,” she said.

But as Greg Bluestein of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution observed, runoffs in Georgia have tended to favor Republicans. After former senator Saxby Chambliss came just shy of a majority against Democrat Jim Martin in 2008, the Republican incumbent beat him handily in a runoff. Further back, Republican Paul Coverdell unseated Wyche Fowler, a Democratic senator, in a 1992 runoff.

But Abrams was already sharpening her pitch Wednesday morning for a future faceoff, addressing voters who may not have supported her the first time around.

“You’re going to have a chance to do a do-over,” she said.

A runoff could further complicate Kemp’s role as a candidate in an election that he is charged with overseeing as Georgia’s secretary of state. He faced blowback when his office announced over the weekend that it had opened a probe into the state Democratic Party for an alleged “hacking” attempt. It provided no evidence to accompany this announcement.

Deanna Paul contributed to this story.

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Democrats took the House, Republicans held the Senate, and key races around the country were still too close to call.

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