Judge turns back Georgia Republicans’ effort to bar early voting in Senate runoff on the Saturday after Thanksgiving

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ATLANTA (AP) – A judge said Friday that Georgia law allows counties to hold early voting on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, which could open up a Saturday before next month’s Senate byelection between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker. Voting is the only possibility.

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Short voting window could reduce turnout in Georgia runoff for US Senate

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Warnock’s campaign, along with the Democratic Party of Georgia and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, filed a lawsuit this week, arguing that early voting should be allowed that day. They were challenging guidance from Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger that it would be illegal to conduct early voting on Saturday, November 26, the day after a state holiday.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Thomas Cox issued an order Friday saying Georgia law “does not specifically prohibit counties from conducting advance voting for a runoff election on Saturday, November 26, 2022.” They also barred the state from interfering with efforts to conduct early voting that day or from preventing any votes cast from being counted that day.

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“We disagree with the court’s order and look forward to an expeditious appeal,” Raffensperger’s office said in an emailed statement.

During a hearing early Friday, Uzoma Nkquanta, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said last week Raffensperger and one of his top representatives had said on national television that early voting would be allowed that day. Then, Enquanta said, the secretary of state a few days later issued guidance to counties saying that would not be allowed because the law does not allow early voting the day after a state holiday. Thanksgiving and the following Friday are both state holidays.

Nkwonta argued at the hearing that the state holiday ban only applied to primary and general elections, not runoffs. Provisions in the law that direct the state’s 159 counties to begin in-person voting for a runoff “as soon as possible”, and no earlier than Monday, November 28, reinforce the idea that the counties will vote that Saturday. Can offer early voting. , They said.

Nkwonta said that state lawmakers intentionally created a distinction between primary and general elections on the one hand, and runoff elections on the other. This makes sense, he argued, because of the condensed time period before runoff.
“The legislature provided voting opportunities that the state now wants to take back,” Nconta said. “It is illegal.”

Charlene McGowan, an attorney for the state, rejected the claim that Raffensperger was co-opting parts of the law. “This is a legal issue, this is not a policy,” she told the judge. “The issue 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 those two types of elections and, therefore, does not have separate rules to allow early voting after a holiday.

Cox disagreed, saying that runoff “is not just a primary or a continuation of [general] Elections but really it is its own separate event.

Warnock and Walker were forced into a runoff on December 6 as neither party received a majority in the midterm elections later 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 only five weeks of early in-person voting, starting on 28 November.

The lawsuit states that the state’s interpretation of the law would hurt Warnock especially because Democrats promote early voting more than Republicans.

It’s unclear how many counties will scramble to offer Saturday’s balloting. Counties are required to provide public notice seven days before starting early voting. But Cox barred the state from interfering with the counties’ efforts to provide early voting that day because of any failure to provide the required notice.

Counties also may not be interested in offering Saturday voting, or they may not have enough time to organize and schedule polling personnel. As of Thursday, only nine predominantly Democratic urban counties had planned Sunday voting, according to Associated Press reporting. Six are in the Atlanta area, and the others are home to some of the state’s other large cities.

Some counties plan to offer early voting on Tuesday and Wednesday, while others have said they could not get around in time to offer voting in the days before Thanksgiving.

From the archives (December 2021): Stacey Abrams calls for congressional voting-rights action ahead of second run for governor in Georgia

Credit: www.marketwatch.com /

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