Voters cast their ballots at the Winnona Precinct at Columbia Theological Seminary’s Richard Center at 701 S. Columbia Drive in Decatur on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

Georgia’s top election official seeks bill to set U.S. Senate sign-ups

A bill proposed in the Georgia House would allow Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to decide when candidates can sign up to run against Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler.

The legislation, House Bill 757, would give the secretary of state authority to set the candidate qualifying period for the November election. Raffensperger’s spokesman said he wants to hold candidate qualifying during the first week in March, the same time that candidates in other races will file their intention to run.

The measure would change a Georgia law that says candidate qualifying for special elections in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate end “no later than 60 days prior to the special election,” which would put the deadline in early September.

If that law were interpreted to mean candidate qualifying must remain open until September, candidates could have potentially sought to run in two Senate races this year. A candidate who lost a primary election in May for the seat held by Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue could have then jumped into the race against Loeffler.

“This is about providing Georgia voters certainty and order by putting into law what has been the practice for over 30 years,” Raffensperger, a Republican, said in a statement. “The last thing voters need now is another frivolous, politically motivated lawsuit based on muddled legal reasoning.”

There’s no primary for the special election for the U.S. Senate to fill the term of former U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson. Both Republicans and Democrats will appear on the same ballot.

Under HB 757, Raffensperger would decide when candidate qualifying will take place and how long it would last. The legislation requires qualifying to remain open for at least 2 1/2 days.

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