by Stanley Dunlap, Georgia Recorder [This article first appeared in the Georgia Recorder, republished with permission]
November 18, 2022
A Fulton County judge is paving the way for Georgia’s local election officials to have an opportunity to offer early voting on the Saturday after Thanksgiving ahead of the December 6 US Senate runoff.
Late Friday afternoon, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Thomas Cox ruled in favor of a lawsuit filed by Sen. Raphael Warnock’s campaign, the Georgia Democratic Party and the Democratic Senators’ Campaign Committee, which argued that the Secretary of State misapplies a law by prohibiting early voting on a Saturday that falls within two days of a public holiday.
After the Nov. 8 midterm election, when both Warnock and GOP challenger Herschel Walker could not avoid a runoff, the office of the Secretary of State issued guidelines for the Senate runoff that said it was illegal to leave the polling stations on Saturday , November 26. That’s two days after Thanksgiving and one day after a holiday on Friday.
During a court hearing on Friday, Cox mentioned that many voters like him are busy with work on weekdays, so a weekend polling day would be the most convenient option.
The judge said in his order that while Georgia law mentions early Saturday voting for general and primary elections, runoff elections are not specifically mentioned in the law.
The secretary of state said he plans to appeal the ruling, meaning the county’s election officials and constituents may not know whether Fulton’s court order is in effect until early next week.
Warnock is in the runoff against Walker after the Nov. 8 midterm elections after neither candidate received more than the 50% of the vote required by Georgian law to declare a winner.
Warnock’s campaign manager and the executive directors of the state and Senate organizations of the Democratic Party issued a statement saying they look forward to counties announcing they will give Georgians the opportunity to cast their ballots on March 26. to deliver November.
“The ability to vote early on Saturday is a win for every voter in Georgia, but especially for workers and students who will have a greater opportunity to make their voices heard in this election,” the statement said.
A spokesman for Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said the law changes made after the 2020 election were intended to bring more consistency, and accused Democrats of twisting the law to pressure counties near the election to gain a party advantage.
During Friday’s hearing, Uzoma Nkwonta, an attorney for the plaintiffs, noted that both Raffensperger and one of his senior deputies publicly stated last week that early voting was permitted on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
Fulton County was the first local elections office to announce it would use optional Saturday by opening elections November 26 through December 26. 2 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m
Georgian law states that in-person voting can begin as soon as possible before a primary and general election, but no later than the second Monday before the deadline. Early polling stations may be open on the third Saturday of the month if a national holiday falls before the previous weekend.
However, the December 6 runoff does not fit into the schedule outlined in the Code because the third Saturday falls within the mid-term certification window.
Instead, the secretary of state said state law requires counties to begin the week-long runoff ballot on Nov. 28.
Warnock said it’s crucial to have as many days of early voting as possible because the Republican-backed revision of the 2021 election law shortens the time between the general election and runoff and reduces voting days early.
Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news outlets supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Georgia Recorder maintains editorial independence. If you have any questions, contact the editor, John McCosh: [email protected] Follow Georgia Recorder on Facebook and Twitter.