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Georgia Supreme Court upholds Saturday early voting ruling

The court thwarted attempts by the Georgia Republican Party and other national GOP groups to block voting on Nov. 26.

ATLANTA — The Supreme Court of Georgia ruled Wednesday that counties may offer voting on Nov. 26, thwarting attempts by the Georgia Republican Party, the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee to block Saturday voting ahead of the U.S. Senate runoff.

The supreme court's ruling upheld earlier decisions from the Fulton County Superior Court and the Court of Appeals of the State of Georgia as the Dec. 6 election between Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker approaches.

The court decisions overturned guidance from Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who argued that early voting on that Saturday was not allowed because it falls after Thanksgiving and a state holiday that once celebrated Confederate general Robert E. Lee. 

Warnock's campaign, alongside the Democratic Party of Georgia and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, filed a lawsuit against the State of Georgia last week challenging Raffensperger's guidance. 

The Republican organizations later joined the lawsuit as a third party on the side of state, arguing that Nov. 26 voting was not allowed.

The Democratic groups alleged provisions in Georgia's law limiting certain Saturday voting after a holiday don't 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.

"(The) exceptions for advance voting on Saturdays falling on or after a holiday applies only to primary and general elections, not runoffs. If the legislature desired otherwise, it 'knew how' to say so, and its decision not to refer to runoffs—which it references elsewhere throughout the provision—should be respected as a 'matter of considered choice,'"  their lawsuit read. "The Secretary’s insistence that counties may not hold advance voting on November 26 ... has no support in the law."

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Thomas A. Cox Jr. sided with the Democratic groups. After the state appellate court upheld the ruling, the state decided not to continue its appeal.

However, the Georgia GOP, the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee continued its attempts to block Saturday early voting. The groups appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court of Georgia Tuesday.

In their filing, the Republican groups argued that the order permitting rather than mandating counties to open advance voting locations on Saturday can't be reconciled with state law which "specifies Saturday dates that 'shall' have advance voting."

The groups also argue that the Saturday early voting ruling favors Democrats as a majority of the counties offering it are blue counties.

“Our Republican coalition has appealed with the Georgia Supreme Court because Georgians deserve better than Democrats scheming to change election laws in the eleventh hour," RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement Tuesday. "This flawed ruling benefits a handful of wealthy Democrat counties at the expense of basic election integrity and cannot be allowed to stand. This is exactly why the RNC, NRSC, and GAGOP have lawyers on the ground in Georgia: to fight Democrat election violations as they happen.”

This is a breaking story and will be updated.

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