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Republicans ask Georgia high court to block Saturday voting for Senate runoff

The emergency petition comes a day after a state appeals court gave counties the green light to hold early voting on a weekend after a state holiday.

ATLANTA (CN) — Republicans filed an emergency petition Tuesday asking the Georgia Supreme Court to block Saturday voting for the U.S. Senate runoff after a lower court ruled to allow it. 

On Monday evening, the Georgia Court of Appeals denied the GOP's attempt to prevent early voting this Saturday. The party, along with Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, argued that state law prohibits Saturday voting if there is a state holiday on the Thursday or Friday before. 

Tuesday's petition – filed by the Georgia Republican Party, National Republican Senatorial Committee and Republican National Committee – comes just after several major metro Atlanta counties said they would open voting locations Saturday. Most of those countries leaned Democratic in the 2020 election.

The Republicans argue that under state law, counties are required to provide voters with a notice of the times, dates and locations for early voting “no later than seven days” before voting starts.

The original lawsuit to allow Saturday voting was brought by Democratic U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock, his campaign, and the Georgia Democratic Party. They argue the restriction on Saturday voting does not apply to runoff elections. 

Since Thursday is Thanksgiving and Friday is a state holiday, Nov. 26 is the only possible Saturday for early voting, as state law also requires early voting to end on the Friday before Election Day, which is Tuesday, Dec. 6.

The election law governing Saturday voting was passed in 2016, but the Georgia General Assembly removed the word “runoff” from it the following year. 

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Thomas Cox sided with the Democratic plaintiffs last Friday and held that the law only applies to regularly scheduled elections.

Raffensperger argued in his appeal to Cox’s ruling that the judge misinterpreted the law and that runoff elections are a continuation of the general election.

Georgia also went into a U.S. Senate runoff in the last election cycle two years ago, during which early voting was allowed on Saturday, Dec. 26, the day after Christmas, when more than 15,500 ballots were cast across three counties. 

At the time, runoffs were held nine weeks after the general election, but the Republican majority of the General Assembly passed a law last year that shortened the runoff period to four weeks. The move came after Warnock and fellow Democrat Jon Ossoff won their Senate runoff elections and flipped party control of the chamber.

Warnock is up against Republican Hershel Walker, a famed University of Georgia football player with an endorsement from former President Donald Trump, after neither candidate received a majority of the votes in the Nov. 8 midterm election. 

Although Georgia is the only state holding a runoff this election cycle, Democrats have already secured their control of the U.S. Senate, but only by a fragile majority. 

Louisiana is the only other state that requires a runoff after a general election when no candidate wins a majority of votes. Most other states decide winners based on whichever candidate gets the most votes, even if that’s less than 50% of votes cast.

Statewide early voting begins Monday, Nov. 28 and runs through Friday, Dec. 2.

Some Georgia counties began opening polling locations Tuesday and will also offer early voting Wednesday and Sunday. As for now, the ruling allowing them to open Saturday as well remains in place.

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