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

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CNN

A judge in Georgia ruled Friday that early voting on November 26 in the second round of the US senate election in the state is possible.

In a written ruling, Justice Thomas Cox of the Fulton County Supreme Court said that after “considering the moving papers, defense counsel’s arguments and references to legal authority,” he determined that Georgia law does not prohibit holding the ballot boxes open. on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. .

The decision favored Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock, who will face Republican challenger Herschel Walker on December 6. Warnock’s campaign spearheaded the Democratic lawsuit challenging state guidelines banning voting on that day.

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

“The court finds that the failure to vote on Saturday will cause irreparable harm to the plaintiffs, their members and voters, and their preferred runoff candidate,” Cox wrote in the conclusion of his decision.

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

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

Earlier on Friday, Cox acknowledged that “time was of the essence”. Over the course of the 90-minute hearing, the judge asked questions of both sides, but gave little direction as to how he leaned on the case.

The lawsuit was filed earlier this week by Warnock’s campaign, joined by the campaign arm of the Georgia Democratic Party and the Democrats’ Senate, after Raffensperger’s office issued guidelines barring counties from early voting on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

State election officials pointed to a section of the election code that prohibits early voting on Saturday when there is a public holiday the Thursday or Friday before. Democrats argued that the provision does not apply to runoff elections. They have pointed to comments made by state officials earlier this month suggesting counties could take early voting on that Saturday, as well as how it was offered the Saturday after Christmas in 2020.

“This last-minute reversal is not only against the law, but also implies a fundamental right in our democracy,” Uzoma Nkwonta, a lawyer for the Democrats, said at Friday’s hearing.

Charlene McGowan, an assistant attorney general of Georgia who defended state officials’ interpretation of the law, said the law has changed since 2020. She said it was an “unfortunate turn of events” that the calendar fell in a way that would not allow counties to offer early voting on that Saturday, but that it was not the job of the court to determine the best policy, since that decision was left to the legislature.

Cox’s questions include questions about the legal weight he should give to comments from state officials who previously indicated that counties could take early votes on Nov. 26. He also asked whether state policy could be seen as a “reasonable” interpretation of the law. The Democrats’ attorney argued that was not the case, while Georgia’s attorney said it was both the reasonable and “clear” interpretation of the statute.

“No one is denied the right to vote here,” McGowan said.

The ban on early voting on Saturdays that fall after a Thursday or Friday state holiday stems from legislation passed in 2016. In 2021, the Republican-led state legislature has significantly shortened the runoff period and it will end on December 6 this year.

In addition to the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday, Georgia also celebrates a national holiday on Friday.

This headline and story were updated on Friday with additional developments.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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