No Saturday voting in Georgia runoff after Thanksgiving

Georgia election officials said over the weekend that state law prohibits early voting on Saturday if a holiday occurred within two days before, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. That means no Saturday voting on Nov. 26 because it’s two days after Thanksgiving.

That Saturday is also the day after a state holiday formerly known as Robert E. Lee’s birthday.

The restriction leaves just five days of required in-person early voting in the state ahead of the Dec. 6 runoff election for Georgia’s U.S. Senate race between Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker. 

Some voters may have access to additional early voting opportunities. Georgia law allows county governments to provide up to three additional early voting opportunities beginning the day after the Nov. 8 election results are certified, which could be as early as the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. That could also provide Sunday voting opportunity, on Nov. 27.

The new update comes after Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said last week that all Georgia voters would have a Saturday voting opportunity before the runoff, before his office’s attorneys learned state law would bar it due to the holidays, according to the AJC.

“It’s not our choice. It’s literally in black-letter law that the Saturday following a state holiday cannot be used for early voting,” Interim Deputy Secretary of State Gabriel Sterling told the AJC. “We all thought there was going to be Saturday voting until we looked at the law really closely.”

The law restricting Saturday voting after a holiday passed in 2016, but it hasn’t posed an issue in previous runoff races, including the 2021 runoff that put Warnock in office.

Voters in Georgia are already facing limited voting opportunities compared to the November election, due to the truncated period of time between elections. 

Under Georgia’s 2021 election law, there will be only four weeks before the runoff, according the the Associated Press. 

The changes could hamper Democrats, who tend to over-perform compared to Republicans in early voting.

But Republicans may face a challenge of their own. Over the weekend, outcomes in other key U.S. Senate races were decided in Arizona and Nevada, with victories for Mark Kelly and Catherine Cortez Masto in their tight races. Those victories secured a Democratic majority in the Senate by maintaining the 50/50 split at a minimum, if Walker defeats Warnock, or giving them a 51/49 majority if Warnock prevails. That means GOP voters may lack motivation to participate in the runoff since the high stakes no longer exist to flip control to the Republican Party. The 50/50 split gives Democrats an advantage this year, as in 2021, because Vice President Kamala Harris serves as the tie-breaking vote. 

That same phenomenon could affect Democrats as well, though Warnock does not face the same criticism in the election as his challenger. Walker has been the subject of much controversy, with two women claiming the anti-abortion Republican paid for them to have abortions, as well as several false or exaggerated claims that have plagued Walker’s campaign. 

Those weaknesses are largely attributed to Walker’s under-performance at the polls this month compared to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who received about 200,000 more votes on Nov. 8 than Walker. Without Kemp on the runoff ballot, fewer Republicans may cast a ballot. 

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