ATLANTA (AP) – Republican groups on Tuesday appealed to Georgia’s highest court to try to ban early voting in this Saturday’s U.S. Senate runoff between Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker.
The Georgia Republican Party, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and the Republican National Committee all appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court. They are asking the Supreme Court to issue an emergency stay of a lower court ruling saying Georgia law allows voting this Saturday.
The runoff day is scheduled for December 6th
The time-sensitive litigation began after Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger gave guidance to county election officials that early voting could not happen on Nov. 26 because state law says it’s illegal on a Saturday when Thursday is a is a holiday or the Friday before. Thursday is Thanksgiving and Friday is a national holiday.
Warnock’s campaign, along with the Democratic Party of Georgia and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, sued last week to challenge that leadership. They argued that the ban on early voting on the Saturday after a public holiday only applied to a primary or general election, not a runoff.
Fulton County Superior Court Justice Thomas Cox sided with the Warnock campaign and the Democratic groups. He issued an order Friday saying Georgia law “does not specifically prohibit counties from conducting an early vote for a runoff election on Saturday, November 26, 2022.”
The state appealed that ruling Monday to the Georgia Court of Appeals, the state’s intermediate appeals court. They argued that the ruling was flawed on procedural grounds and that Cox was wrong to view the runoff as a distinct type of election rather than a continuation of the general election. They asked the Court of Appeal to immediately stay the lower court’s verdict.
The appeals court issued a single-sentence ruling late Monday refusing to stay the lower court’s order.
State officials accepted the verdict and said they would not appeal further.
“The court got its way. We believe this is something the General Assembly should clarify to avoid confusion in the future. I hope that despite this decision, poll workers can enjoy a reasonably relaxing vacation,” spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office Mike Hassinger said in an emailed statement.
But the Republican groups, which were allowed to join the lawsuit as interveners, appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court on Tuesday.
They argue that the interpretation of Georgia law put forward by the plaintiffs and accepted by Cox was wrong. The runoff, scheduled for December 6, is clearly a follow-up to the November 8 general election and is subject to the Saturday voting ban immediately after a public holiday, they argue.
The counties had relied on Raffensperger’s guidance in preparing for the runoff, under the assumption that voting would not be allowed on Nov. 26, the Republican groups argue. Only 10 counties – “all of them Democrat-leaning” – plan to hold an early vote on Saturday, they note.
This “sows confusion and inequality into the voting process, preventing the clarity and consistency that Georgian citizens deserve,” they argue.
The Supreme Court has given the Warnock campaign and pro-democracy groups until 9am Wednesday to table a response.
Warnock and Walker, the former University of Georgia and NFL football star, were forced into a runoff on Dec. 6 because neither of them won a majority in midterm elections that month.
Georgia’s 2021 election law has compressed the period between the general election and the runoff to four weeks, and Thanksgiving falls in the middle. Many Georgians will be offered early in-person voting for just five days a week starting November 28.
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