A top Democratic lawyer is threatening legal action over the early voting window released by Georgia officials for the state’s Senate runoff next month.
Marc Elias, founder of Democracy Docket and partner at Elias Law Group, took aim at the GOP-led administration, arguing it is releasing “incorrect” information with a bulletin that says there cannot be voting on the Saturday after Thanksgiving because it is a state holiday. The GOP is “desperate to suppress the vote in the Georgia runoff” between Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and Republican Herschel Walker, Elias declared on Sunday via Twitter.
“Last night, they tried to sneak out incorrect information regarding Saturday voting on Nov. 26,” he said. “This interpretation of the law is wrong. If Georgia insists on it, we will consider all legal options.”
Democrats are poised to maintain control of the Senate following a projected victory in Nevada, and the race in Georgia will determine how much wiggle room the party will have considering centrist members such as Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), who sometimes buck the party. Elias was the top lawyer for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and has drawn scrutiny for his role in pushing Trump-Russia collusion claims.
According to state law as it stands now, early voting in Georgia is required to be open at least from Nov. 28 until Dec. 2. If the general election is certified by Nov. 21 as expected, some counties may begin early voting on the Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Voters will not be able to cast their ballots on Thanksgiving and, as stated in the bulletin, Nov. 26.
“Advance Voting on Saturday, November 26th is prohibited by OCGA 21-2-385(d)(1), which states that if the second Saturday before the runoff follows a Thursday or Friday that is a state holiday, voting on that Saturday is not allowed,” according to the bulletin from Blake Evans, elections director for the Georgia secretary of state.
Because of a voting law approved last year, the runoff will only last four weeks, compared to the nine-week runoff that Warnock won against Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler in 2021. Georgians will only get five weekdays of early in-person voting.
The Secretary of State’s Office, led by Republican Brad Raffensperger, defended its interpretation of the law, stating that its attorneys learned voting on the holidays wasn’t allowed under state law. Previously, the office said voting on Nov. 26 would be allowed.
“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,” said interim Deputy Secretary of State Gabriel Sterling. “We all thought there was going to be Saturday voting until we looked at the law really closely.”
The Saturday holiday, formerly called Robert E. Lee’s Birthday, drew criticism from civil rights groups. Then-Gov. Nathan Deal changed the holiday’s name to a more neutral title, “State Holiday,” in 2015
The rules may signal trouble for Democrats, who typically lean more heavily on early and mail-in voting than do Republicans. And some others beyond Elias, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, argue the state is misinterpreting the law, claiming that preventing Saturday voting is only applicable for three-week early voting periods before regularly scheduled elections, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.