Georgia Supreme Court denies appeal, Saturday voting will go ahead

Credit: BEAU EVANS/CAPITOL BEAT NEWS SERVICE

Credit: BEAU EVANS/CAPITOL BEAT NEWS SERVICE

The Georgia Supreme Court has allowed a Fulton County Superior Court ruling that paved a path for Saturday voting in a U.S. Senate runoff to stand, according to a unanimous order issued Wednesday.

The ruling followed a decision Monday in which Court of Appeals for Georgia refused to block an order from a Fulton County judge allowing voting this Saturday, Nov. 26 in the Senate runoff between incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker. After that ruling, the Georgia Secretary of State's office, which oversees voting, declined to continue the legal battle.

"The Court has worked its will," wrote Mike Hassinger, spokesperson for the Georgia Secretary of State's office,  in a statement after the Court of Appeals ruling. "We believe this is something the General Assembly should consider clarifying to avoid confusion in the future. I hope that election workers are able to enjoy a somewhat restful holiday despite this decision."

Credit: Georgia Secretary of State's Office

Credit: Georgia Secretary of State's Office

The Georgia Republican Party, National Republican Senatorial Committee, and Republican National Committee filed a motion asking the Supreme Court to disallow Saturday voting. Republican organizations claimed that the ruling was a disruptive, last-minute change that would favor "wealthy, Democrat-heavy counties" in their motion to the Supreme Court of Georgia.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger had instructed county elections officials to disallow Saturday voting based on his interpretation of state voting law. Saturday voting is opt-in, and a few counties have chosen to allow it.

Credit: Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News

Credit: Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News

A joint statement from the Warnock campaign, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Democratic Party of Georgia cheered the ruling as a victory.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the Secretary of State's office had 22 counties that would be offering early voting, and encouraged voters to visit their county's board of elections websites for voting locations and poll hours. Counties offering Saturday voting include, Baldwin, Burke, Chatham and Clarke.

State holidays block Saturday voting

The Secretary of State's office initially suggested counties would have the option to provide Saturday voting on Nov. 26. Later, they said there would be no Saturday voting due to a state law that prevents voting on the second Saturday before an election if there is a holiday on a Thursday or Friday. Thursday is Thanksgiving and Friday is a generically named "State Holiday."

The State Holiday in November replaced a previous holiday honoring Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's birthday, even though Lee was born in January.

Last week, Democratic organizations filed suit, arguing that the restriction on early voting was intended for primary and general elections, not runoffs. The Republican Party of Georgia was one of the defendants, as was the Secretary of State's office. After losing in the Fulton County Superior Court, the defendants appealed the decision, resulting in Monday's ruling by the Court of Appeals.

Whether counties offer Saturday voting or not, early voting must begin no later than Nov. 28 and run through Dec. 2. Counties can also choose to offer Sunday voting on Nov. 27. Early voting locations must be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and can be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Georgia Supreme Court denies appeal, Saturday voting will go ahead