A judge said on Friday that Georgia law allows counties to offer early voting on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, which would allow for next month’s Senate race between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker. The only possibility of voting is on the Saturday before the run-off election.
Warnock’s campaign, along with the Democratic Party of Georgia and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee,Arguing that early voting should be allowed on that day. They were challenging guidance from Republican Secretary of State Brad Rauffensperger that said it would be illegal to hold early voting on Saturday, Nov. 26, the day after a state holiday.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Thomas Cox issued an order Friday stating that Georgia law “does not specifically prohibit counties from conducting advance voting for the Saturday, November 26, 2022, runoff election.” ” They also prohibited the state from interfering with efforts to hold early voting on that day or preventing the counting of any votes cast on that day.
“We disagree with the court’s order and look forward to an immediate appeal,” Raffensperger’s office said in an emailed statement.
During the hearing early Friday, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Uzuma Nkunta, noted that last week Raffensperger and one of his top deputies said on national television that early voting would be allowed that day. Then, Nkwonta said, the Secretary of State issued a directive to the counties a few days later saying it would not be allowed because the law does not allow early voting the day after a state holiday. Both Thanksgiving and next Friday are public holidays.
Nkwonta argued at the hearing that the ban on state holidays only applies to primaries and general elections, not run-offs. Provisions in the law that direct the state’s 159 counties to open in-person voting for runoffs “as soon as possible” and no later than Monday, Nov. 28, reinforce the idea that counties will pre-register this week. May choose to submit time voting. They said.
Nkwonta said state lawmakers deliberately created a distinction between primary and general elections on the one hand and run-off elections on the other. This makes sense, he argued, because of the condensed time before runoff.
“The legislature provided voting opportunities that the state is now trying to take back,” Nkwonta said. “It’s illegal.”
Charlene McGowan, an attorney for the state, rejected claims that Raffensperger was cherry-picking parts of the law.
“This is a legal issue, this is not a policy issue,” he told the judge. “The problem is, what does Georgia law require?”
McGowan argued that there are two types of elections in Georgia: primary elections and general elections. A runoff is a continuation of one of these two types of elections and therefore does not have different rules to allow early voting after a recess.
Cox disagreed, saying that the runoff “is not simply a continuation of the primary or (general) election, but is actually its own separate event.”
There were Warnock and Walker.Because neither of them won a majority in the mid-term elections that month.
Under Georgia’s 2021 election law, there will be only four weeks between the general election and the runoff — with Thanksgiving in between. Many Georgians will be offered just five days of early in-person voting starting Nov. 28.
The lawsuit says the state’s interpretation of the law would particularly harm Warnock because Democrats emphasize early voting more than Republicans.
It’s unclear how many counties will vie to offer Saturday voting. Counties must give public notice seven days before opening early voting. But Cox prohibited the state from interfering with counties’ efforts to provide early voting that day for failing to provide the necessary notice.
Counties may also not be interested in offering Saturday voting, or they may not have enough time to organize and schedule poll workers. As of Thursday, only nine predominantly Democratic urban counties planned to vote on Sunday, the Associated Press reported. Six are in the Atlanta area and the rest are home to some of the state’s other major cities.
Some counties plan to offer early voting on Tuesday and Wednesday, while others said they could not mobilize in time to offer voting in the days before Thanksgiving.