Democrats Sue Georgia Over Early Voting Guidance for Senate Runoff
WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Monday, Nov. 14, the Democratic Party of Georgia, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) and Warnock for Georgia (Sen. Raphael Warnock’s (D-Ga.) campaign for U.S. Senate) filed a lawsuit against the state of Georgia challenging the state’s guidance for early voting before the Senate runoff election. During the Nov. 8 midterm elections, neither Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) nor his Republican challenger Herschel Walker garnered over 50% of the vote total as required under Georgia law, sending the two candidates to a runoff election on Dec. 6, 2022. On Nov. 12, the Georgia secretary of state’s office issued guidance stating that advance voting — the terminology Georgia uses for early in-person voting — “must begin as soon as possible prior to the runoff [on Dec. 6, 2022] and no later than Monday, November 28th.” Counties can hold advance voting prior to Thanksgiving, but not on Thanksgiving Day (Thursday, Nov. 24) or the day after Thanksgiving (Friday, Nov. 25). The guidance also states that counties cannot hold advance voting on Saturday, Nov. 26 based on the secretary’s reading of a 2016 law that states “if such second Saturday follows a public and legal holiday occurring on the Thursday or Friday immediately preceding such second Saturday…such advance voting shall not be held on such second Saturday.” In Georgia’s advance voting statute, the terminology “second Saturday” refers to the Saturday two weeks prior to a given election. However, contrary to the secretary’s reading of the 2016 law, the plaintiffs argue that the law “guarantees early voting on specific weekend days for primary and general elections and imposes conditions on that mandate, neither of which apply to runoffs” and therefore counties can hold early voting for the Senate runoff on Saturday, Nov. 26.
This legal challenge comes after the Georgia secretary of state’s office issued conflicting messages about early voting for the Senate runoff. Soon after, lawyers representing the DSCC sent a letter to multiple Georgia county election boards, publicly disagreeing with the Georgia secretary of state’s interpretation of state law governing early voting.
Following the letter sent to multiple counties, the plaintiffs filed this lawsuit to argue that Georgia law requires counties to begin early voting for the runoff “as ‘soon as possible’ but in any event ‘no later than the second Monday immediately prior to such runoff.”’ Since the 2016 law that the secretary relies on does not include the word “runoff” when outlining when early voting can be held following a holiday, the plaintiffs allege that voters should not be prevented from voting early on Nov. 26 for the runoff as it is neither a primary election nor a general election. Thus, the plaintiffs argue that counties should not be prevented from holding early voting on Saturday, Nov. 26 if they choose to do so. The plaintiffs request an order stating that Georgia law does not prohibit counties from conducting early voting on Nov. 26 and further request that Georgia and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) are prevented “from instructing counties that they may not provide advance voting on Saturday, November 26, 2022, or from interfering in any effort by counties to provide advance voting on Saturday, November 26, 2022, or from taking any action to prevent votes cast during advance voting on November 26 from being counted and included in the certified election results.” They also request that the State Elections Board be prohibited from “taking any action against any county based on the county offering Saturday voting in advance of a general election runoff.”