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Former U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker at a rally in Perry, Georgia on September 25, 2021.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker at a rally in Perry, Georgia on September 25, 2021. (Photo: Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Georgia Supreme Court Rejects GOP Effort to Prevent Saturday Voting in Senate Runoff

The state high court unanimously denied Republican groups' petition for a reversal of a lower court ruling that permitted early voting this weekend.

Kenny Stancil

Update:

The Georgia Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously rejected the Republican Party's attempt to block early voting this Saturday in the U.S. Senate runoff election between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and GOP candidate Herschel Walker.

Earlier:

Republican groups filed an appeal with the Georgia Supreme Court on Tuesday in a last-ditch effort to block early voting this Saturday in the U.S. Senate runoff election between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and GOP candidate Herschel Walker.

The Georgia Republican Party, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and the Republican National Committee asked Georgia's high court to overturn a lower court's ruling that said state law permits early voting this Saturday, 10 days before the December 6 runoff.

As The Associated Press reported, "The time-sensitive legal battle began after Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger issued guidance to county election officials that said early voting could not be held on November 26 because state law says it is illegal on a Saturday if there is a holiday on the Thursday or Friday preceding it."

Thursday is Thanksgiving and Friday is a state holiday that was originally created to honor Robert E. Lee, the general of the Confederate army that fought to preserve slavery. Lee's name wasn't removed from the holiday until 2015.

The Democratic Party of Georgia, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and the Warnock campaign sued last week to challenge Raffensperger's guidance, arguing that the prohibition on Saturday early voting after a holiday applies only to primary or general elections, not runoffs.

A Fulton County judge agreed, issuing an order on Friday that sided with the Warnock campaign and the Democratic groups.

Lawyers for the state challenged the lower court's decision, but the Georgia Court of Appeals issued a single-sentence ruling late Monday that rejected their request for an immediate reversal.

Raffensperger accepted that ruling and said the state would not launch additional appeals.

"The court has worked its will," Mike Hassinger, a spokesperson for the secretary of state's office, said in a statement. "We believe this is something the General Assembly should consider clarifying to avoid confusion in the future."

The Republican groups, however, appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court on Tuesday.

According to AP:

They argue that the interpretation of Georgia law put forth by the plaintiffs and accepted by [Fulton County Superior Court Judge Thomas Cox] was incorrect. The runoff election set for December 6 is clearly a continuation of the November 8 general election and is subject to the prohibition on Saturday voting immediately after a holiday, they argue.

Counties had been relying on the guidance provided by Raffensperger as they prepared for the runoff election, under the assumption that voting would not be allowed November 26, the Republican groups argue. Only 10 counties—"all of them Democrat-leaning"—plan to hold early voting on Saturday, they note.

That "sows confusion and inequity into the voting process, preventing the clarity and uniformity that Georgia's citizens deserve," they argue.

The Warnock campaign and the Democratic groups expressed their opposition to the GOP's petition in a filing submitted to the state supreme court on Wednesday morning.

Georgia compressed the time frame for runoff campaigns as part of a 2021 voter suppression law condemned by Democrats and voting rights advocates.

"The shortened calendar, less than a month from the general election, makes the early-voting period coincide with Thanksgiving," HuffPost noted. "Georgia law requires that counties hold five days of early voting from Monday, November 28, through Friday, December 2. But counties are also allowed to hold three additional days of early voting, and some counties want to offer early voting on Saturday, when many voters are off work."

Warnock and Walker, a former football star backed by ex-President Donald Trump, are set to face off in the December 6 runoff after neither candidate won more than 50% of the vote in the November 8 midterms.

Democrats have already secured 50 seats in the Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris' tie-breaking vote giving them the slimmest possible majority. But the Georgia runoff is still consequential for several reasons.

Among other things, a victory by Warnock would ensure that Democrats have a majority on all Senate committees—allowing them to expedite the pace of judicial confirmations and other work. It could also reduce the obstructionist influence of right-wing Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.).


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