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Judge Rules Saturday Voting Is Allowed in Georgia’s Upcoming US Senate Runoff


A judge in Georgia ruled that county elections officials can provide voting on the Saturday after Thanksgiving in the upcoming Senate runoff election, handing a victory for Democrats.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Thomas Cox Jr., in siding with the state’s Democratic Party and Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), issued an order blocking (pdf) guidance issued by Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger that declared it illegal to hold early voting on Nov. 26. The Democrats’ lawsuit filed last week had argued that early voting should be allowed on that day.

Neither Warnock nor Republican candidate Herschel Walker reached 50 percent of the vote during the Nov. 8, triggering a runoff election scheduled for Dec. 6. The Libertarian Party candidate, who got about 2 percent of the vote, will be excluded from the runoff.

“The Court finds that the absence of the Saturday vote will irreparably harm the Plaintiffs, their members, and constituents, and their preferred runoff candidate,” Cox wrote in his order, adding that state law “does not specifically prohibit counties from conducting advanced voting on Saturday, November 26, 2022, for a runoff election.”

State election officials had argued in a hearing earlier on Nov. 18 that early voting on the Saturday after Thanksgiving was not allowed because it violated state law prohibiting voting on Saturday if there is a state holiday on the Thursday or Friday before.

Under Georgia’s 2021 election law, there will be only four weeks between the general election and the runoff—with Thanksgiving in the middle. Many Georgians will be offered only five weekdays of early in-person voting beginning Nov. 28.

Along with the Thanksgiving holiday this Thursday, Georgia observes a state holiday on Friday, Nov. 25.

The lawsuit from Warnock and other Democrats argued the state’s interpretation of the law would hurt Warnock in particular because Democrats tend to push early voting more than Republicans. Uzoma Nkwonta, a lawyer for Warnock, said during a Nov. 18 hearing that both Raffensperger and one of his top deputies recently said on national television that early voting would be allowed on that day.

“This last-minute reversal is not just wrong on the law, but it also implicates a fundamental right in our democracy,” Nkwonta said, according to CNN.

Charlene McGowan, a lawyer for the state, rejected assertions that Raffensperger was cherry-picking parts of the law. “This is a legal issue, it’s not a policy one,” she told the judge. “The issue is what does Georgia law require?”

Raffensperger, a Republican, said he disagreed with the judge’s decision and would file an appeal, according to his office in a statement provided to news outlets after Cox’s ruling. On Monday morning, the Georgia Attorney General’s office filed a notice indicating the state would appeal (pdf) Cox’s decision.

Warnock and Warlker
(Left) Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) in Columbus, Ga., on Oct. 8, 2022. (Megan Varner/Getty Images); (Right) Georgia Republican Senatorial candidate Herschel Walker in Carrollton, Ga., on Oct. 11, 2022. (Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Republican National Committee told the Wall Street Journal that the GOP will appeal and “are simply asking for election laws to be followed, not undermined in the 11th hour.”

The judge’s order also prohibits the Georgia Secretary of State’s office from “interfering in counties’ efforts” to prevent “any votes cast on that day (Nov. 26) from being counted or included in the certified election results.”

Runoff

Both Walker and Warnock are continuing their campaigns to get supporters to the polls next month. Republican Gov. Brian Kemp—who prevailed against Democrat activist Stacy Abrams in the gubernatorial race this month—joined Walker on stage on Nov. 19 to rally, while it was announced that former President Barack Obama would campaign on behalf Warnock in the coming weeks.

“Don’t believe the political pundits that are saying, ‘Oh, this race doesn’t matter anymore,’” Kemp said Saturday. “It matters … It’s not just about this December. It’s gonna be about November two years from now. It is about the future of our country.”

During his last visit to Georgia to boost Warnock several weeks ago, Obama echoed Democratic Party lines by making constant references to “democracy” and it “being on the ballot.”

“There may be a lot of issues at stake in this election,” the former president also said. “But the basic question, fundamental question that you should be asking yourself right now is, who will fight for you? Who cares about you, who sees you, who believes in you? That’s the choice in this election.”

Despite the runoff, Democrats were able to maintain their majority in the Senate by getting 50 seats after the Nevada race between incumbent Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Republican Adam Laxalt was called about a week ago. Laxalt conceded to Masto as state election data shows he’s trailing her by around 9,000 votes.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Jack Phillips

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Jack Phillips is a breaking news reporter at The Epoch Times based in New York.





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