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GOP appeals Saturday voting in Georgia

Post-holiday prohibition applies to Senate runoff, it tells state high court by KATE BRUMBACK The Associated Press | November 23, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.
Voters fill out forms as they wait in line to cast ballots in the last hour of early voting in the Atlanta suburb of Tucker, Ga., on Friday, Nov. 4, 2022. Many Georgia polling places reported a crush of voters on the last day of the state's early voting period. (AP Photo/Jeff Amy)

ATLANTA -- Republican groups appealed to Georgia's highest court Tuesday in an attempt to prohibit early voting this Saturday in the U.S. Senate runoff election between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker.

The Georgia Republican Party, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Republican National Committee filed the appeal with the Georgia Supreme Court. They are asking the high court to issue an emergency stay of a lower court ruling that said Georgia law does allow voting Saturday.

The runoff Election Day is scheduled for Dec. 6.

The time-sensitive legal battle began after Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger issued guidance to county election officials that stated early voting could not be held Saturday because state law says it is illegal on a Saturday if there is a holiday on the Thursday or Friday preceding it. Thursday is Thanksgiving and Friday is a state holiday.

Warnock's campaign, along with the Democratic Party of Georgia and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, sued last week to challenge that guidance. They argued that the prohibition on Saturday early voting after a holiday applies only to a primary or general election.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Thomas Cox sided with the Warnock campaign and the Democratic groups. He issued an order Friday saying Georgia law "does not specifically prohibit counties from conducting advanced voting on Saturday, November 26, 2022, for a runoff election."

The state on Monday appealed that ruling to the Georgia Court of Appeals, the state's intermediate appellate court. They argued that the ruling was erroneous for procedural reasons and Cox was wrong to consider the runoff a separate type of election rather than a continuation of the general election. They asked the appeals court to immediately stay the lower court ruling.

The Court of Appeals issued a single-sentence ruling Monday declining to stay the lower court's order. State officials accepted that ruling and said they would not pursue further appeals.

"The Court has worked its will. ... I hope that election workers are able to enjoy a somewhat restful holiday despite this decision," the secretary of state's office spokesman, Mike Hassinger, said in a statement.

But the Republican groups, who had been allowed to join the lawsuit as intervenors, appealed Tuesday to the Georgia Supreme Court.

They argue that the interpretation of Georgia law put forth by the plaintiffs and accepted by Cox was incorrect. The runoff election set for Dec. 6 is clearly a continuation of the Nov. 8 general election and is subject to the prohibition on Saturday voting immediately after a holiday, they argue.

Counties had been relying on the guidance provided by Raffensperger as they prepared for the runoff election, under the assumption that voting would not be allowed Saturday, the Republican groups argue. Only 10 counties -- "all of them Democrat-leaning" -- plan to hold early voting Saturday, they note.

That "sows confusion and inequity into the voting process, preventing the clarity and uniformity that Georgia's citizens deserve," they argue.

The Supreme Court has given the Warnock campaign and Democratic groups until 9 a.m. today to file a response.

Warnock and Walker, the retired football star, were forced into a Dec. 6 runoff because neither won a majority in the midterm election this month.

Print Headline: GOP appeals Saturday voting in Georgia

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