WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Saturday, Nov. 26, over 70,000 Georgians cast a ballot during a crucial day of early voting that was the focal point of a recent lawsuit. U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) and his Republican challenger Herschel Walker will face off in a runoff election for the U.S. Senate on Dec. 6; a 2021 law moved the runoff election from early January to early December, thereby restricting the amount of time for early voting. On Nov. 12, the Georgia secretary of state’s office issued guidance prohibiting counties from holding early voting on Saturday, Nov. 26 due to a 2016 law that prohibits early voting on the Saturday after a Thursday or Friday holiday (Thanksgiving was on Thursday, Nov. 24). Soon after, the Democratic Party of Georgia, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Warnock’s campaign filed a lawsuit arguing that the 2016 law does not apply to runoff elections. A trial court agreed with the Democrats’ interpretation of the law and counties were allowed, but not required, to hold early voting on Saturday, Nov. 26.
Although a handful of counties quickly announced that they would opt to offer early voting on the Saturday at issue, the state of Georgia and a group of Republican intervenors (the Georgia Republican Party, National Republican Senatorial Committee and Republican National Committee) appealed the decision. The appellate court declined to pause the ruling permitting Saturday early voting. The state of Georgia chose not to pursue a further appeal, but, in a last ditch effort to prevent voters from having an additional day of early voting, the Republican intervenors asked the conservative-leaning Georgia Supreme Court to step in and pause the lower court’s ruling. The Georgia Supreme Court unanimously rejected that appeal, leaving the Saturday early voting option in place.
In the end, 27 counties held early voting this past Saturday in both Democratic- and Republican-leaning areas of the state. In total, 70,050 Georgians cast ballots on Saturday, Nov. 26. An additional 87,000 voted the following day. With the early voting period already cut short by the new runoff timeline, each and every day of early voting — especially a weekend opportunity — is crucial for voters. Many noted that for out-of-state college students, this lone Saturday might be the only opportunity to cast an early ballot if they’re visiting family for Thanksgiving. The tight turnaround before the runoff and issues with absentee ballots during the 2022 general election encouraged some to vote early in person instead. It was reported that long lines wrapped around polling locations across the state.
According to Georgiavotes.com, 10,802 voters who didn’t vote in the November midterms cast a ballot this past weekend; 6,367 of those were aged 18 to 29. During an afternoon rally on Saturday, Warnock acknowledged the positive outcome from the lawsuit: “We had to take them to court just so you could vote today,” he noted towards the end of his speech.
Early voting for the Senate runoff election is mandated in all counties starting today, Monday, Nov. 28.