The Georgia Supreme Court, unanimously and without commentary, shot down Republicans’ attempt to bar a day of early voting in the Senate runoff between Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and Herschel Walker.
The high court upheld a decision from a Fulton County judge last week, who said that blocking the vote on the Saturday after Thanksgiving would “irreparably harm the Plaintiffs, their members, and constituents, and their preferred runoff candidate.”
When the Georgia Court of Appeals declined to block that lower court order, the Georgia Republican party, along with the National Republican Senatorial Committee and Republican National Committee, appealed to the state Supreme Court.
Each day of early voting took on more importance ever since Republicans in the state legislature, dismayed by their party’s losses in 2020, passed a bundle of voter restrictions that included chopping the runoff calendar in half.
The dispute over this Saturday in particular came down to idiosyncrasies of state law: Republicans, at one point supported by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R), said that a regulation prohibiting Saturday voting after a holiday puts the post-Thanksgiving day out of bounds. Warnock’s campaign, and assorted Democratic entities, said that that law applies only to primary and general elections, not to runoffs.
Fulton County Judge Thomas Cox, now supported by the appellate and high courts, sided with the Democrats.
“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,” he wrote. “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.”
Raffensperger, after initially saying he expected that there would be some early voting on the 26th — which Cox noted in his opinion as lending insight into the “creation of a public expectation” — reversed himself days later, accusing the Warnock campaign of “muddying the water and pressuring counties to ignore Georgia law.”
Georgia counties are required to open the polls for early voting next week, from November 28 to December 2. Now, they will have the option of offering voting this Saturday too.