In the lead-up to the U.S. Senate runoff election on Dec. 6, there has been a lot of debate about Saturday early voting in Georgia.
As of right now, Saturday early voting in the matchup between Democratic incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock and GOP challenger Herschel Walker will take place this weekend in several Georgia counties, thanks to a Fulton County Superior Court ruling on Nov. 18.
Early voting ends next week on Dec. 2, the Friday before Election Day. Below is a breakdown of what you need to know about Saturday early voting and the latest developments.
Why was Saturday voting in question to begin with?
Earlier this month, election officials, including GOP Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, determined that state law prohibits early voting from taking place on Nov. 26, the Saturday that follows Thanksgiving and the State Holiday formerly known as Robert E. Lee’s Birthday.
The officials argued a law passed in 2016 bars voting from taking place on Saturdays if a holiday occurs within two days prior. In a lawsuit, an attorney for Warnock and the Democratic Party of Georgia argued successfully that Raffensperger was misreading the law and denying voters a key opportunity to cast their ballots in the process.
What happened with the court rulings?
On Nov. 18, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Thomas A. Cox Jr. ruled in favor of allowing early voting this Saturday.
Early voting took place the Saturday before the last U.S. Senate runoff two years ago, and no such objection was filed at that time, Warnock’s lawyer pointed out.
On Monday, an appellate judge upheld Cox’s ruling. In response, state and national Republicans Party officials reportedly filed an emergency petition with the state Supreme Court. An emergency petition is an expedited appeal process that asks the court to rule more quickly than normal on a time-sensitive matter.
On Thursday, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled against the appeal, keeping Saturday voting intact, for now.
So, can I vote early on Saturday now, or what?
It depends on where you live. At last count, 14 counties — including Fulton, Cobb, DeKalb, and Gwinnett — have announced plans to offer voting this Saturday, Nov. 26, according to the Georgia secretary of state’s office. Clayton County does not have an early Saturday voting option.
The remaining 10 counties are Bibb, Chatham, Douglas, Mitchell, Muscogee, Randolph, Rockdale, Terrell, Walton, and Ware, an SOS spokesperson said via email. The list of eligible counties could grow in the coming days.
Be sure to check your My Voter Page at the secretary of state’s website for the voting dates, times and locations in your county.
Stephanie Ali, policy director for New Georgia Project, noted that more conservative-leaning counties such as Walton and Cherokee have announced plans to host early voting this Saturday. Ali is “encouraged” by the moves.
“As these counties that are more Republican-led, more deep-red counties, announce, that gives myself, and I believe my partners, hope that more counties will be announcing,” she said.
How could this negatively impact Black voters?
Black voters have been overrepresented among early voters throughout this election cycle. Black voters were the most likely among racial demographic groups to vote in previous election cycles. That tendency to vote early includes Saturday early voting, according to Hillary Holley, former director of organizing and strategic adviser of Fair Fight Action, a voting rights nonprofit. Holley says many Black and brown voters in Georgia have working-class jobs that make it harder for them to travel to the polls during the week.
“They have to go before work or after work, and giving them as many days as possible is always critical,” she said during a press conference Tuesday.
Preventing voters from voting early on Saturday could affect Black voters more than other groups, according to U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, who chairs the Democratic Party of Georgia.
“We know in Georgia that less access to the ballot box disproportionately impacts Black voters,” Williams said in a written statement. “When counties increase access to voting by adding more days and hours, like on Saturday, it creates greater opportunity for Black voters — and those who historically have not had equal access to the ballot box — to participate in our democracy.”
This story has been updated to reflect the Georgia Supreme Court’s decision on Wednesday to uphold Saturday voting.