For The Record

Georgia appeals court denies GOP state election chief’s bid to ban early voting the Saturday after Thanksgiving

By: - November 21, 2022 7:19 pm

There will be early voting sites open in several Georgia counties on Saturday Nov. 26 for the U.S. Senate runoff between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Senate hopeful Herschel Walker. In two court rulings, the secretary of state’s office was unsuccessful in its attempt to prevent voters from voting on Saturday since it falls within a day of a state holiday. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

The story was updated 1:53 p.m. Nov. 22 with news that an emergency petition has been filed with the Georgia Supreme Court.

Georgia’s Court of Appeals has rejected Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s attempt to keep Georgians from voting in the U.S. Senate runoff on the Saturday after Thanksgiving,

On Monday evening the appeals court blocked the state’s emergency motion to nullify a Fulton County judge’s order giving Georgia counties the option to open early voting sites on Saturday, Nov. 26, which falls two days after Thanksgiving and one day after a state holiday previously named in honor of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

Attorney General Chris Carr, a Republican, filed the appeal on behalf of the secretary of state claiming that state law prohibits advanced voting on Saturdays that fall within a day after a state holiday.

Although the secretary of state and attorney general are no longer challenging the ruling, several Republican organizations said they are appealing to the state’s highest court. The Georgia Republican Party, the Republican National Senatorial Committee, and the Republican National Committee filed an emergency petition on Tuesday requesting the Georgia Supreme Court to block early voting on Saturday, Nov. 26.

After Monday’s ruling, voters in a few of the state’s most heavily populated counties will be able to vote in the runoff election between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and GOP challenger Herschel Walker.

Both candidates failed to get the 50% of votes needed for an outright victory in the Nov. 8 midterm election, prompting a runoff that both parties are battling to win even though Democrats already won control of the Senate this month.

Georgia State University law professor Anthony Michael Kreis noted on Monday that the appeals court ruled in favor of voter accessibility.

“We don’t have a decision on the merits or an explanation, but two things won out tonight at the Court of Appeals: (1) last minute changes in interpretation of state election law are disfavored and (2) there’s no irreparable harm to the state by erring on the side of voters #gapol,” Kreis said in a tweet. 

In a press conference after the Nov. 8 midterm election, Raffensperger said he expected some counties to offer advance voting on Saturday. Raffensperger’s state election director sent guidelines shortly afterwards stating that state law prohibits voting on the Saturday following Thanksgiving.

The Georgia Democratic Party and Warnock’s campaign filed the lawsuit on Nov. 14, arguing that providing more opportunities will benefit Georgians.

In the closely contested runoff, Walker may be at a disadvantage since during the early voting period, counties with strong Democratic leanings are more likely to offer weekend voting than those with Republican majorities. Georgia counties planning to open early voting precincts this Saturday include Chatham, Clarke, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fulton, Gwinnett, Macon-Bibb,  Muscogee and Walton counties. State election officials recommend voters check the website of their county election office to see when local early voting is available.

Following the 2020 presidential election, Republican lawmakers overhauled Georgia’s voting laws in response to the unexpected loss of former President Donald Trump to Democrat Joe Biden.

Georgia law specifies that in-person voting can begin as soon as possible prior to a primary and general election, but no later than the second Monday before the runoff date. Early voting sites can be open on the third Saturday of the month if a state holiday precedes the prior weekend.

The Dec. 6 runoff, however, does not fit the timeline listed in the code since the third Saturday bleeds into the midterm certification window.

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Stanley Dunlap
Stanley Dunlap

Stanley Dunlap has covered government and politics for news outlets in Georgia and Tennessee for the past decade. At The (Macon) Telegraph he told readers about Macon-Bibb County’s challenges implementing its recent consolidation, with a focus on ways the state Legislature determines the fate of local communities. He used open records requests to break a story of a $400 million pension sweetheart deal a county manager steered to a friendly consultant. The Georgia Associated Press Managing Editors named Stanley a finalist for best deadline reporting for his story on the death of Gregg Allman and best beat reporting for explanatory articles on the 2018 Macon-Bibb County budget deliberations. The Tennessee Press Association honored him for his reporting on the disappearance of Holly Bobo, which became a sensational murder case that generated national headlines.

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