Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger initially announced Saturday voting as an option during the Dec. 6 Georgia Senate runoff, but later said state law bars early voting during the two days after a holiday. The lawsuit filed on Tuesday calls that a misinterpretation.
Senate Bill 202, Georgia’s sweeping voting law update approved in 2021, shortened the runoff period to four weeks after the general election instead of the nine weeks that Georgia saw for the two U.S. Senate runoffs after the 2020 election. The runoff this year is in December instead of January.
According to the lawsuit, the state’s claim about Saturday voting is based on changes to election law in 2016.
The holiday rules are from SB 199, signed by the Gov. Nathan Deal in April 2016. The legislation allows early voting on the second Saturday before an election, with some restrictions. If that Saturday follows a holiday on Thursday or Friday, then the early voting would move earlier to the third Saturday. The lawsuit contends this part of the law applies to primaries and elections, not to runoffs. But the provisions are wrapped in complex legal language that may need a court to sort out.
UPDATE: On Friday, Nov. 18, a Fulton County judge ruled that Saturday voting is OK two days after Thanksgiving this year
The third Saturday, Nov. 19, is apparently not an option. Public notice requirements, voting machine testing and election certification deadlines mean that early voting cannot begin until Tuesday, Nov. 22 at the soonest.
Early voting must be offered in all counties Monday, Nov. 28, through Friday, Dec. 2. Counties can choose to offer additional early voting dates the week beforehand. Optional dates are Tuesday, Nov. 22; Wednesday, Nov. 23; and Sunday, Nov. 27.
Return to the AJC Politics page for updates on the Georgia Senate runoff from reporter Mark Niesse and the AJC Politics team.