Georgia Senate runoff: Judge rules to allow early voting Saturday after Thanksgiving



CNN

A judge ruled Friday allowing early voting in Georgia on Nov. 26 US Senate second election.

In a written ruling, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Thomas Cox “after considering the moving papers, arguments of counsel and references to legal authority,” he determined that Georgia law did not prohibit holding polls on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. .

Senate Democrats face Republican Herschel Walker in a Dec. 6 runoff. The decision was made in favor of Raphael Warnock. Warnock’s campaign led a Democratic lawsuit challenging the state’s directive to block voting that day.

State election officials argued in a hearing earlier Friday that early voting on the Saturday after Thanksgiving was not allowed because it violated a state law that prohibits voting on Saturday if the preceding Thursday or Friday is a public holiday.

“The Court finds that not voting on Saturday would cause irreparable harm to Plaintiffs, their members and constituents, and their preferred runoff candidate,” Cox wrote in concluding his decision.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensburger, a Republican, disagreed with the judge’s decision.

“We disagree with the court’s order and look forward to an immediate appeal,” his office said in a statement.

Earlier Friday, Cox acknowledged that “timing is of the essence.” During the 90-minute hearing, the judge fielded questions from both sides, but gave little indication of how he was leaning on the case.

The lawsuit was filed earlier this week Warnock’s campaignThe Georgia Democratic Party and the Senate campaign arm of Democrats joined after Raffensberger’s office issued guidance barring early voting on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

State election officials pointed to a section of the election code that prevents early voting on Saturday when the preceding Thursday or Friday is a state holiday. Democrats have argued that the rule does not apply to runoff elections. They pointed to comments by state officials earlier this month that counties could stop early voting on that Saturday, and how it was offered on the Saturday after Christmas in 2020.

“This last-minute reversal is not wrong in law, but it impinges on a fundamental right in our democracy,” Democratic Party lawyer Uzoma Nkwonda said at the hearing on Friday.

Charlene McGowan, Georgia’s assistant attorney general, supported state officials’ interpretation of the law, saying the law has changed since 2020. He said it was an “unfortunate turn of events”. An early vote was called for that Saturday, but the court’s job was not to decide the best policy, and that decision was left to the Legislature.

Cox’s questions included questions about what legal weight he should give the opinions of state officials. He pointed out that early voting can be held on November 26 in the districts. And he asked whether the state’s policy could be seen as a “reasonable” interpretation of the law. A lawyer for the Democratic Party argued that it was not, while a lawyer for Georgia said it was a fair and “clear” interpretation of the law.

“Nobody’s right to vote is denied here,” McGowan said.

A law passed in 2016 banned early voting on Saturdays following a Thursday or Friday public holiday. 2021The Republican-led state legislature significantly shortened the runoff period, and it will end on Dec. 6 this year.

In addition to the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday, Georgia also observes a public holiday on Friday.

This headline and story was updated Friday with additional updates.

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