Florida to consider returning to party runoffs in 2026
Announcement day is approaching.

A State Affairs Committee bill could dramatically reshape elections in 2026.

Florida could soon reinstate primary runoffs for the first time since 2000.

A Committee bill filed Monday (PCB SAC 6) for the House State Affairs Committee would call for a second Primary to be held whenever more than two candidates file for a partisan office. It’s a significant election reform that could substantially extend the election season in Florida — though not until the 2026 cycle.

As drafted, the bill would call for a first Primary Election in every partisan race in Florida to be held 20 weeks before the General Election.

That would mean a state Primary would be scheduled for June 16, 2026, with a runoff held 10 weeks later on Aug. 25.

A runoff wouldn’t happen if any candidate receives a majority vote on the first run, a guarantee if only two candidates file. Both would advance in the rare event of a tie between two candidates.

Florida used to hold Primary runoffs. Indeed, the political career of many of Florida’s most storied political leaders like former Gov. Bob Graham, owed statewide wins to the system. In Graham’s case, he came in second in a Democratic Primary for Governor in 1978 behind Robert Shevin, then won a runoff for the Democratic nomination before ultimately winning the Governor’s mansion in November.

Graham’s daughter, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, endorsed the proposal.

“When no primary candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, runoffs allow for the strongest candidate in the general election,” the Panhandle Democrat said. “My Dad would not have been Governor without the runoff. Bringing back runoffs would be good for Florida and democracy.”

The younger Graham has her own history with runoffs— or the lack thereof. She ran for Governor in 2018 but lost the nomination to Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in a crowded field with a winner-takes-all primary.  With a runoff, she and Gillum would have advanced and she might have consolidated a moderate wing of the party against the progressive. Gillum, who was under federal investigation as he ran, lost to Republican Ron DeSantis by an historically slim margin.

Runoffs existed in Florida for most of the 20th century.

The state implemented a runoff system in 1901, setting a first Primary and a runoff four weeks apart, with the nomination for each party determined four weeks ahead of the General Election. About 12 years later, the state changed to a ranked-choice system, but by 1929, it re-established a Primary runoff system that would survive the century.

The state largely moved away from runoffs after 2002, when the federal Help America Vote Act became law. Scheduling issues prompted the state to suspend runoffs in 2002 and 2004 before formally repealing them in 2006.

Of course, the election cycle under the old runoff system was more abbreviated than what’s proposed now. The longer periods between the first Primary, Runoff and General elections would allow the state to comply with federal requirements about mailing ballots and other timing issues.

But this would also impact qualification deadlines, requiring just one qualifying period that runs 71 to 67 days before the first Primary. Currently, the state has separate qualifying periods, one for federal and judicial offices and one for state, county, School District and special taxing district offices.

This year, the first qualifying deadline ends on April 26, with the second deadline on June 14.

Under the new law, the federal and judicial qualifying deadline in 2026 would be on Feb. 20, while the state and county qualifying deadline would be on April 6.

But a single qualifying deadline would occur sooner under the proposed law. In 2026, the qualifying for all offices impacted would be on April 10 at noon.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


  • PLEASE EDIT BEFORE POSTING! Too many mistakes in Florida Politics articles!

    February 19, 2024 at 9:39 pm

    Please correct this nonsense: “The state implemented a runoff system in 2001, setting a first Primary and a runoff four weeks apart, with the nomination for each party determined four weeks ahead of the General Election. About 12 years later, the state changed to a ranked-choice system, but by 1929, …” Do you mean 1901?????

    • Hung Wiil

      February 19, 2024 at 10:05 pm


  • Dont Recall

    February 20, 2024 at 7:33 am

    Not to howl any monkey names, but what’s needed are recall elections.

    As if any G0P run state would ever offer its voters any legitimate power over G0P’s Gone Wild.

    Some creep hollered “show us your tits” and the G0P said “we’re all right here” other than the 20 resigning from the US House due to their not wanting to serve in the party of Putin’s Pocket Pussy

  • Tom Palmer

    February 20, 2024 at 9:40 am

    This would be a great change and would prevent candidates from gaming the system to win with just a plurality. And yes the 2018 election may have turned out differently if we had runoffs.

Comments are closed.


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