All Georgia GOP members of Congress urge election delay

March 2, 2020 - Atlanta - Georgia Senator David Perdue, standing with House Speaker David Ralston, addresses the house after qualifying for a second term as the general assembly continued for the 22nd legislative day.  Bob Andres / robert.andres@ajc.com
March 2, 2020 - Atlanta - Georgia Senator David Perdue, standing with House Speaker David Ralston, addresses the house after qualifying for a second term as the general assembly continued for the 22nd legislative day. Bob Andres / robert.andres@ajc.com

Credit: Bob Andres

Credit: Bob Andres

Georgia's entire Republican congressional delegation on Tuesday pressured Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to delay the May 19 primary because of the coronavirus.

The GOP delegation, made up of two senators and nine representatives, said Raffensperger should use “all available flexibility and legal authority” to postpone the primary.

“Georgia voters should not be asked to choose between exercising that right and following the guidance of federal, state, and local officials to keep themselves, their families, and our communities healthy,” wrote the delegation in a letter.

Raffensperger, a Republican, said he lacks legal authority to postpone the presidential primary again. He already delayed it once so it coincides with the previously scheduled general primary.

The election must go on, Raffensperger said Tuesday night.

“Elections are part of America's critical infrastructure. They must go on, as they have in our history during civil war, crushing recessions and deadly epidemics,” Raffensperger said.

It would take legislative action or an executive order from Gov. Brian Kemp to move the election, Raffensperger said. Election dates are set in law to protect the rights of overseas voters who need time to receive and return their ballots, he said.

Under state law, the secretary of state can postpone an election for 45 days during an emergency, as Raffensperger did March 14.

Raffensperger believes the law only allowed him to delay the election until early voting resumes April 27, a period of 44 days.

House Speaker David Ralston, a Republican from Blue Ridge who wants to postpone the election, has said he believes Raffensperger can delay the election again when "an emergency is ongoing."

Ralston said Raffensperger already exercised power to exceed the 45-day limit because the gap between the original March 24 election and the new May 19 date is 56 days.

A change in state law is unlikely because the Georgia General Assembly is suspended during the coronavirus pandemic.

The letter from Georgia's congressional delegation was signed by U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, as well as U.S. Reps. Buddy Carter, Drew Ferguson, Rob Woodall, Austin Scott, Doug Collins, Jody Hice, Barry Loudermilk, Rick Allen and Tom Graves.

— Staff writer Greg Bluestein contributed to this article.

Read the letter from Congress

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