November 30, 2022

PROGRESS REPORT: Here’s how Senator Warnock is fighting against Georgia voter suppression

PROGRESS REPORT: Here's how Senator Warnock is fighting against Georgia voter suppression

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Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA) is holding the state of Georgia accountable for its voter suppression efforts, filing a lawsuit challenging the state’s closing of Saturday voting ahead of the runoff election, joining voters’ rights groups and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

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“We should be striving to give the people of Georgia fair access to the ballot box. We just saw an election in November where the people in Georgia made it clear that they want to use Saturday voting. Hundreds of thousands of voters, Georgia voters, voted on Saturday. They have demonstrated what they want, and there is nothing in the law as it is currently written to prevent it,” Senator Warnock declared.

Warnock told reporters Tuesday:

“This is certainly something all of us should be able to agree on.”

“This is an emergency action for declaratory and injunctive relief to vindicate the right to vote in the upcoming December 6, 2022 runoff election for one of Georgia’s seats in the U.S. Senate. Georgia law requires counties to commence ‘a period of advance voting’ for the runoff as ‘soon as possible’ but in any event ‘no later than the second Monday immediately prior to such runoff.’  In other words, while counties must begin allowing voters to participate in advance voting no later than November 28, 2022, they are required to start earlier if they can.”

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger had previously announced that voters would have an opportunity to vote on a Saturday prior to the December 6th runoff between Rev. Warnock, and his Republican opponent, Herschel Walker, before backtracking and saying it would be contrary to Georgia law. According to the complaint:

“On November 9, 2022, Secretary Raffensperger stated in an appearance on national television that he ‘anticipate[s] that some counties may likely have Saturday voting following Thanksgiving.’ That same day, his office’s Chief Operating Officer, Mr. Sterling, appeared on a different national network and reiterated the Secretary’s statement, affirming that counties had the option to open their polls to voters on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. However, just three days later, the Secretary’s Office reversed course.”

In 2016, the state legislature passed a law prohibiting early voting after a holiday.  The holiday in question? Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s birthday.

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Sen. Warnock and the plaintiffs assert it doesn’t apply to a runoff.

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“Despite the law’s command that counties begin offering advance voting ‘as soon as possible,’ Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has taken the unsupportable position that counties are barred from opening the polls on Saturday, November 26. The Secretary’s purported legal rationale for this restriction is the second sentence of § 21-2-385(d)(1), which states that early voting must be conducted on the second and third Saturday before a primary or general election; and (2) when the second Saturday before the day of a primary or general election falls on a holiday or immediately after a holiday, counties must conduct mandatory advance voting on the third Saturday before Election Day. In other words, § 21-2-385(d)(1) guarantees early voting on specific weekend days for primary and general elections and imposes conditions on that mandate, neither of which apply to runoffs.

The complaint goes on to clarify:

“Moreover, § 21-2-385(d)(1)’s statutory history confirms that the view expressed in the November 12 Bulletin is wrong. When the General Assembly in 2016 first added the provision regarding advance voting on the Saturday after a holiday, it named all three categories of elections, stating that the provision applied during a ‘primary, election, or runoff.’ 2016 Ga. Laws Act 347 § 4 (emphasis added). Just one year later, the General Assembly updated the provision, deliberately deleting the words ‘or runoff,’ leaving only ‘primary or election.’ 2017 Ga. Laws Act 250 § 18.”

Metropolitan Atlanta areas, including Fulton and Gwinnett counties, have announced early voting on November 27th – a Sunday – extending their hours from 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. for the rest of the week leading up to the runoff.

Occupy Democrats reached out to Sen. Warnock’s campaign and are awaiting a reply.

Read the complaint here.

Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick

Ty Ross

News journalist for Washington Press and Occupy Democrats.

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