Democrats sue Georgia over ban on post-Thanksgiving Saturday early voting in Senate runoff

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The campaign of Sen. Raphael Warnock, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Georgia Democratic Party filed suit to allow early voting on Nov. 26.

The campaign of Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia, whose run for reelection against Republican nominee Herschel Walker will be decided in a runoff election on Dec. 6, on Monday joined the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Georgia Democratic Party in filing a lawsuit against the state of Georgia.

The suit, filed in the Superior Court of Fulton County, challenges a decision by the office of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to prohibit early in-person voting on Saturday, Nov. 26.

In prohibiting voting on Nov. 26, Raffensperger's office cited a state law that bars so-called "advance voting" on a Saturday after a state holiday. Both Nov. 24 and Nov. 25 are holidays in Georgia, Thanksgiving Day and what the "Official Election Bulletin" on the prohibition calls "Observance of State Holiday 1."

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit argue that such prohibitions do not apply to runoff elections.

The lack of voting on that Saturday would mean that voters would have fewer days to cast early ballots in the runoff, which will determine whether Democrats win a 51-seat majority or will need Vice President Kamala Harris to cast the tie-breaking vote in a Senate evenly split 50-50.

Already the runoff election is shorter, after Republicans in Georgia changed the law to slash the voting in a runoff from nine weeks to just four and make the early voting period five days.

"I think it is a disservice to the people of Georgia," Warnock said during a news conference on Tuesday. "And since we're not hamstrung by the law, as we interpret it, people ought to have the ability to exercise their voting rights."

As the lawsuit makes its way through court, voting rights groups are urging Georgia counties to add other days for advance voting.

"We urge you to exercise your discretion to add additional days of advance voting and extend advance voting hours," the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the ACLU of Georgia, and the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote in a letter sent to Georgia county election supervisors. "In particular, we urge you to add additional advance voting at least on Tuesday, November 22, Wednesday, November 23 and Sunday, November 27 from 7:00 A.M. until 7:00 P.M., which will provide a sorely needed option to voters and may help to mitigate the substantial risk of long lines."

The Democratic Party has in recent years promoted advance voting, noting on its website in 2020, "DPG strongly encourages you to vote early!"

In the midterms, Democrats in Georgia cast hundreds of thousands more early ballots than Republicans, according to data from the firm TargetSmart.

The runoff between Warnock and Walker was triggered after neither candidate garnered 50% of the vote in the general election, with Warnock winning 49.4% of the vote to Walker's 48.5%.

Election handicappers say Warnock has an advantage, citing the fact that thousands of Republicans who voted for GOP Gov. Brian Kemp did not cast their ballots for Walker. Without Kemp on the ballot in the runoff, it's unclear whether Republican voters will turn out.

"Several reasons to think Democrats could be favored in a Georgia Senate runoff," tweeted Ryan Matsumoto, an analyst with the nonpartisan political handicapping outlet Inside Elections. "(1) Warnock leads in the 1st round. (2) Kemp won't be running and helping GOP turnout. (3) Democrats gained compared to the November election in the January 2021 runoffs."

What's more, Georgia Republicans now fear that former President Donald Trump's announcement that he's running for president in 2024 could spur Democratic turnout and hurt Walker's chances.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.