House Speaker Ralston: Ongoing emergency should delay Georgia primary

March12, 2020 Atlanta - Speaker of the House David Ralston speaks as the morning session begins during Crossover day at the Georgia State Capitol on Thursday, March 11, 2020. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
March12, 2020 Atlanta - Speaker of the House David Ralston speaks as the morning session begins during Crossover day at the Georgia State Capitol on Thursday, March 11, 2020. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

House Speaker David Ralston wrote in a letter Sunday that a further delay of Georgia’s upcoming primary election is justified because there will still be a state of emergency from the coronavirus on election day May 19.

The letter emailed to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger reiterates Ralston's argument that the election should be moved to June. 

Ralston, a Republican from Blue Ridge, said the primary should be postponed because elderly poll workers will be at risk, and because legislators should be able to review Raffensperger's planned expansion of absentee-by-mail voting.

The presidential primary, originally scheduled for March 24, was already delayed once. It now coincides with the previously scheduled May 19 general primary. Ralston wants both the presidential and general primaries to be rescheduled.

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All active voters in Georgia will soon be mailed absentee ballot request forms for the election, Raffensperger announced last week. Georgia has allowed any registered voter to use an absentee ballot since 2005. In-person voting will remain available during early voting and on election day.

Raffensperger said Friday that he and county officials plan to stick with the May 19 election date.

Related: Study: Georgia COVID-19 pandemic to peak week of April 22

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Under state law, the secretary of state can postpone an election for 45 days during an emergency, as he did March 14. In-person early voting will resume 44 days later, on April 27.

But Ralston’s letter said the 45 days postponement can be extended “if an emergency is ongoing.” He suggested holding the election June 16.