ATLANTA — The Georgia Republican Party, the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee have joined a Fulton County lawsuit in an effort to prevent Saturday early voting ahead of the U.S. Senate runoff.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Thomas A. Cox Jr. issued an order Wednesday afternoon allowing the Republican groups to join the proceedings after they filed an emergency motion to intervene.
The Republican groups enter the case on the side of the State of Georgia. Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, the Georgia Democratic Party and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee sued the state after Georgia election officials said advance voting was not allowed on Nov. 26 under state law.
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“Once again, Raphael Warnock and the Democrats are trying to change election rules at the eleventh hour and using liberal lawyers in Washington to overrule the state of Georgia," NRSC Chairman Rick Scott, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, and GAGOP Chairman David Shafer said in a joint statement provided to 11Alive. "Raphael Warnock should be more concerned about representing the people of Georgia and less about padding the pockets of the lawyers who he has already illegally used for personal litigation. This lawsuit is an unnecessary ruse solely to spark controversy in the early voting period."
Georgia law bars voting on the second Saturday before an election or a primary if a state holiday is held on Thursday and Friday. In this case, the holidays are Thanksgiving (Nov. 24) and a designated state holiday on Nov. 25 that once celebrated Confederate general Robert E. Lee.
Officials at the Georgia Secretary of State's office initially said voting would be allowed Nov. 26 before backtracking after its lawyers reviewed state law.
Early voting can't take place Saturday, Nov. 19 under the state's newly-shortened, four-week window to certify the general election results and prepare for the runoff.
However, the Democratic groups allege provisions in Georgia's law limiting Saturday voting after a holiday does not apply to runoffs. They argue the section of the law that lays out the holiday restriction mentions only primaries and elections.
Runoffs are a separate type of election under state law. If the Georgia legislature wanted to restrict runoff voting around holidays, that portion of the law would have mentioned runoffs, the groups allege.
"The Secretary’s interpretation misreads (the law) and cherry-picks provisions that have no application to runoffs," the lawsuit reads. "The Secretary’s insistence that counties may not hold advance voting on November 26 therefore has no support in the law and conflicts with (the law's) requirement that counties begin advance voting for the December 6 runoff as soon as possible."
Warnock faces Republican Herschel Walker in a Dec. 6 runoff. Warnock was the top vote-getter in this month's general election, but he fell short of the necessary 50% plus 1 vote share needed to win the race outright.
The lawsuit will be heard by Cox Friday.