Georgians will be able to vote in person Saturday after Thanksgiving, an appeals court has ruled, marking a narrow win for Senator Raphael Warnock’s campaign ahead of the state Senate runoff election.
The Democratic senator will face Republican challenger Herschel Walker on December 6 after neither candidate managed to secure a midterm majority on November 8.
Monday’s appeals court ruling upheld a lower court ruling allowing an early in-person vote on November 26, which would be the only Saturday Georgians could cast an early vote in a tight race.
In the appeal, state election officials, led by Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, argued that voting on November 26 would not be allowed because it would violate a Georgia law that forbids voting on Saturday if Thursday or Friday is a public holiday. .
The Democrats and Mr. Warnock’s campaign filed a lawsuit challenging Mr. Raffensperger’s determination, and on Friday afternoon a Fulton County judge ruled in their favor, stating that the Georgia secretary of state cannot prevent counties from voting on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
“The court finds that the absence of Saturday’s vote will irreparably harm the Plaintiffs, their members and constituents, and their preferred runoff candidate,” wrote Justice Thomas A Cox, siding with the Democratic Party and Sen Warnock’s campaign.
Shortly after the ruling, a spokesman for the secretary of state confirmed that his office intended to appeal the decision.
“We disagree with the court’s order and look forward to a swift appeal,” Mike Hassinger, a spokesman for Raffensperger’s office, said Friday.
After Monday’s appeal upholding Friday’s decision, early in-person voting will now be allowed on November 26, marking the only Saturday people in the state will be able to cast an early vote before the second round on December 6.
Election officials had no way of securing early voting on November 21 as mid-term elections were still being approved, and a Saturday after November 26 was also out of the question as early voting must end on December 2.
Statewide early voting must begin on November 28, but counties had the option to add additional dates after the state confirmed the results of the 2022 general election on Monday.
In response to the rejection of his office’s appeal on Monday, Mr. Raffensperger maintained a civil stance in his office’s debacle.
“The Court has done its will. We believe this is something the General Assembly should consider to clarify this issue to avoid confusion in the future,” Raffensperger told CNN. “I hope that election workers will be able to enjoy a somewhat peaceful holiday despite this decision.”
In their successful challenge to the law, lawyers for the Warnock campaign argued that Georgia law did not apply to this runoff election, as it merely stipulated that post-holiday Saturdays were off-limits for primaries and general elections.
Of the state’s 159 counties, at least nine opened early voting for in-person voters from Friday, while a smaller group began in 22 and 23 shortly after the 2022 midterm results were confirmed.