Seven states require a candidate to win a primary with a majority of the votes. To make that happen, primary runoff elections are used. These states are primarily, but not exclusively, in the South: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Texas.
In addition, two more states—North Carolina and South Dakota—require runoffs in special circumstances:
- In North Carolina, a primary runoff is not automatically triggered; it must be requested by a second-place candidate, and the first-place candidate must have received less than 30% of the votes cast.
- In South Dakota, a primary runoff is required if no candidate wins more than 35% of the vote in a race with three or more candidates.
Below are descriptions of each state’s primary runoff system, along with the relevant statutory text.
This page is part of NCSL’s Toolkit for Primary Elections, which provides information on many different aspects of party nomination systems.