Judge rules early voting in runoff on Saturday after Thanksgiving allowed in Georgia

Judge Thomas A. Cox. Jr. listens to a plaintiff in a Fulton County Courthouse on Friday, Nov. 18, 2022, in Atlanta. A lawsuit was filed by the Democratic Party of Georgia, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Warnock campaign that challenges guidance by Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, saying that it would be illegal to hold early voting on Saturday, Nov. 26, the day after a state holiday. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

A judge in Georgia ruled Friday that voters in the state can participate in early voting on the Saturday after Thanksgiving ahead of next month’s runoff between Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) and his Republican challenger, Herschel Walker. 

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Thomas Cox said in his ruling that a state law prohibiting the holding of early voting two days after a holiday does not apply to runoffs, only primaries and general elections. 

Warnock joined a lawsuit from Georgia Democrats and the Senate Democrats’ campaign arm on Wednesday that argued early voting should be allowed on Nov. 26.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) originally indicated that voting would be permitted on that day, but his office walked back the statement based on their interpretation of the law. 

A law passed last year changed Georgia’s election laws, reducing the period of time for a runoff to be conducted after a general election from nine weeks to four weeks. The updated timeline caused the only Saturday available for early voting to be two days after Thanksgiving. 

Raffensperger’s office argued that the holiday-focused law applied to all primaries, general elections and runoffs, but Cox disagreed. 

Cox noted in his ruling that the portion of the law at issue only mentions the words “primary or election” and does not reference runoffs as it does in other parts of the law. He said the legislature could have decided to include runoffs in the section when it was crafting the law, but they chose not to. 

Cox ruled that the law does not specifically prohibit counties from conducting advanced voting on that Saturday and prohibited the state from interfering with holding early voting on that day. 

Warnock led Walker by almost 1 percentage point at the conclusion of the general election for the Senate seat earlier this month, but he did not reach the necessary majority threshold to win outright. The two will face off in a runoff election on Dec. 6.

If Warnock wins, he will expand the Democrats’ razor-thin majority in the Senate in 2023.

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