The Georgia Supreme Court will allow voting for the Senate runoff on Saturday
ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia counties are allowed to vote early this Saturday in the U.S. Senate runoff between Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker, following a Supreme Court ruling Wednesday.
The court issued a unanimous, one-sentence decision refusing to review or stay a decision by the state’s Intermediate Circuit Court of Appeals. Republicans protested Saturday’s vote.
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. Early in-person voting ends December 2, the Friday before Election Day, meaning November 26 would be the only possible Saturday on which an early voting could take place.
At issue is a section of Georgian law that says early in-person voting is not allowed on a Saturday if the preceding Thursday or Friday is a public holiday. The state and Republican groups argued that voting should not be allowed this Saturday, Nov. 26, because Thursday is Thanksgiving and Friday is a state holiday. Warnock’s campaign and Democratic groups argued that the ban applied only to primary and general elections, not runoffs.
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.
Eighteen of the state’s 159 counties — including six of the 10 most populous counties — planned to offer a vote on Saturday, Assistant Assistant Secretary of State Gabriel Sterling said on Twitter late Tuesday. Some counties plan to offer early voting on the Sunday before the required Start Monday.
After initially saying in a television interview that voting was permitted on Nov. 26, Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger then instructed county election officials that it was not permitted. Warnock’s campaign, along with the Democratic Party of Georgia and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, sued last week to challenge that leadership.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Thomas Cox issued an order Friday that state law does not prohibit early voting next Saturday. The state appealed that verdict Monday, asking the Georgia Court of Appeals to stay the lower court’s verdict. The appeals court issued a single-sentence order late Monday refusing to stay the lower court’s order.
State officials accepted the verdict and said they would not appeal further. But the Georgia Republican Party, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Republican National Committee, which were allowed to join the case as interveners, appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court on Tuesday.