WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Friday, Nov. 18, a Georgia judge ruled that counties may hold early voting on the Saturday, Nov. 26 (the weekend after Thanksgiving). This ruling comes after the Democratic Party of Georgia, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) and 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, which specifically stated that counties were prohibited from holding early voting on Saturday, Nov. 26 based on a reading of a 2016 law that outlines when early voting can be held following a holiday. The plaintiffs in the case argue that Georgia 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. In today’s order, the judge agreed with the plaintiffs and held that the state of Georgia is prevented from “interfering in any effort by Georgia counties to provide advance voting on Saturday, November 26, 2022.”
The 2022 midterm election cycle began with the GOP filing a record number of lawsuits aimed at disenfranchising voters before the 2022 midterm elections. Despite the fact that Republican-sponsored election denialism, voter suppression and election subversion proved unpopular during the 2022 midterms, on Nov. 15, 2022, the Georgia Republican Party, National Republican Senatorial Committee and Republican National Committee filed a motion to intervene in this lawsuit to block early voting on the Saturday following Thanksgiving. Notably, this was Republicans’ first legal action since the failed “Red Wave.” While the Republicans were allowed to intervene in the lawsuit, when the state defendants asked the judge if the intervenors could speak in today’s hearing, the judge stated that he did not “want to hear from the intervenors.” Today’s order makes it even clearer that Republicans’ efforts to limit voting access are not only unpopular with voters, but also don’t hold up in a court of law.
In the order, the judge held that Georgia law “does not specifically prohibit counties from conducting advanced voting on Saturday, November 26, 2022, for a runoff election.” In support of this holding, the judge writes that, had “the Legislature been so inclined, they could have easily included runoff to continue this pattern of a three-category list but they chose not to. In this instance it is obvious that they chose not to because it was previously included in the text of the statute but was later removed.” The court found that “the absence of the Saturday vote will irreparably harm the Plaintiffs, their members, and constituents, and their preferred runoff candidate.” Of note, counties will not be required to hold early voting on this day, but now can choose to do so if they want. Since the order came down, Fulton County has already updated its website to list Saturday, Nov. 26 as an early voting day. This decision is a victory for Georgia voters who will now be able to vote early on Saturday, Nov. 26 if their county chooses to hold early voting on that day.