Judge rules Saturday vote can be held November 26 in the Georgia Senate runoff

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ATLANTA – A Georgia judge ruled that early voting can take place on Saturday in the closely watched Senate race between Democratic incumbent Raphael G. Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker.

In a ruling Friday afternoon, Judge Thomas A. Cox Jr. found that a provision of the Georgia Election Code cited by the Secretary of State’s office as prohibiting Saturday voting “does not specifically prohibit counties from conducting advanced voting on Saturday, November 26, 2022, to a re-election.”

The court further noted that “there is an absence of settled law on this specific issue” in Georgia, but that the intent of the state legislature was “obvious” in omitting any specific reference to a runoff in the statute.

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The ruling is a victory for Democrats and voting rights advocates, who had argued that the laws in question were vague and did not apply to a runoff election.

Officials in the secretary of state’s office had initially ruled that Saturday voting could take place in this year’s run-off before backing off after discovering a provision in the electoral code that prevented voting in the days following a public holiday. The Saturday at issue in the case would be two days after Thanksgiving and one day after a state holiday that, until 2015, honored Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

Democrats filed the lawsuit shortly after the state issued guidance to counties discouraging voting on Saturday.

“I’m happy with the judge’s decision. Obviously, I think it was the right call,” Warnock said at a rally on the campus of Georgia Tech on Friday night. “We should want every eligible voter to have the opportunity to vote, and not having a Saturday vote disproportionately affects working class people.”

“I would encourage everyone to vote early and make sure your voice is heard,” he added.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) said the ruling should not be the end of the road on this issue.

“We disagree with the court’s order and look forward to a speedy appeal,” Raffensperger said in a statement.

The decision on whether to appeal the case will be made by Republican Chris Carr, the state’s attorney general. The appeals court could issue a stay order to prevent counties from allowing the Nov. 26 vote.

Walker’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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The order does not necessarily mean that a Saturday vote will take place; Counties across Georgia must decide whether to hold early voting hours on Nov. 26, requiring more time and resources from poll workers and election workers. There is also the possibility of more court cases if the case is appealed.

“The judge made very clear that the election code’s text, structure and history did not match the state’s tortured, literal interpretation of the law to block Saturday voting,” said Anthony Michael Kreis, professor of constitutional law and legal history. at Georgia State University. “It doesn’t make sense to apply the same standards for a short by-election as we would for a general election with several weeks of early voting.”

Chatham, Cobb, Dekalb and Fulton counties have already adopted trigger policies that would instruct election workers to conduct Saturday voting if the court ruled it legal.

Sabrina Rodriguez contributed to this report.

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