Republicans have asked Georgia’s highest state court to overturn a ruling that will allow early voting to take place Saturday, 10 days before the Dec. 6 Senate runoff election between Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) and Republican candidate Herschel Walker.
The hubbub began after Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) said county election officials could not schedule early voting on a Saturday after a public holiday like Thanksgiving, citing state law. But the Warnock campaign and the Georgia Democratic Party sued, saying that provision applies only to primary or general elections, not runoffs.
A judge in Georgia’s Fulton County agreed, and the Georgia Court of Appeals declined to overturn that decision this week.
But the Republican National Committee, the Georgia Republican Party and the National Republican Senatorial Committee filed an appeal with the Supreme Court of Georgia on Tuesday, asking it to issue an emergency stay to block the Saturday voting. The groups claim only “Democrat-leaning” counties plan to conduct early voting, which, they argue, eviscerates “the statutorily-required uniformity among Georgia’s counties on that day.”
Raffensperger had said he would accept the Georgia Court of Appeals decision, saying the court had “worked its will.”
“We believe this is something the General Assembly should consider clarifying to avoid confusion in the future,” Mike Hassinger, a spokesperson for Raffensperger’s office, told The New York Times. “I hope that election workers are able to enjoy a somewhat restful holiday despite this decision.”
Georgia shortened the time frame for runoff campaigns as part of a 2021 voting law decried 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, the Times noted.
Georgia law requires that counties hold five days of early voting from Monday, Nov. 28, through Friday, Dec. 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 are set to face off in the Dec. 6 runoff after neither candidate secured more than 50% of the vote in the Nov. 8 midterm elections. Warnock, who is running for his first full six-year term in Congress after initially winning in a runoff on Jan. 5, 2021, led Walker by less than 40,000 votes in the 2022 vote.
Democrats are already projected to win 50 seats in the Senate, with the vice president as a tie-breaking vote to give them the majority. But picking up the Georgia seat would give them a firmer 51-member majority that could aid President Joe Biden’s legislative and judicial agenda. The party would also have a majority on all Senate committees, and the additional seat could weaken the power moderate Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) hold over the chamber.