Georgians have many reasons to be grateful this Thanksgiving, but a runoff election free from partisan lawsuits is not one of them. Amid its contentious campaign between Democrat Sen. Raphael Warnock and GOP challenger Herschel Walker, Georgia Democrats called in Marc Elias — the lawyer behind the 2016 Russia collusion hoax — to force Georgia to allow an extra day of early voting on the Saturday following Thanksgiving.
Elias shopped around for an activist judge likely to grant him an easy win, and he found one. The GOP eventually appealed, but the day before Thanksgiving the Georgia Supreme Court refused to block the lower court’s opinion.
That’s a disappointing outcome that sets aside the black-and-white text of the law. As the Honest Elections Project pointed out in our brief, Georgia’s election code clearly states that if the second Saturday before the runoff election follows a Thursday or Friday public holiday, early voting should not take place on that Saturday.
The provision is meant to give election workers an extra day off over Thanksgiving weekend. After working long hours for weeks during the midterms, Georgia’s election workers have surely earned it.
The impact on Georgia voters, meanwhile, was minimal. Voting in Georgia is easy, as the midterm election proved. For the runoffs, the law guarantees Georgians a minimum of five days to vote, and everyone can vote by mail or on Election Day.
With so much riding on the outcome of the Senate runoff, Georgia Democrats are looking for every edge. That’s why Marc Elias’s lawsuit did not seek to compel early voting statewide on Nov. 26, but to simply allow it.
That’s a distinction with a difference. Elias’s bet was that big, metropolitan counties such as Fulton County, which contains Atlanta, would be far more likely to have the resources to pull off last-minute holiday voting. Rural, less-populated counties, on the other hand, would be far less likely to be able to pull off the extra day of voting, especially with little notice.
So far, that bet seems to be paying off. Major counties which heavily favored Warnock in the Nov. 8 Midterm election have overwhelmingly embraced the extra day of runoff voting. Comparatively few conservative counties, representing a far smaller subset of the state’s population, have followed suit.
The bottom line: Elias is grabbing a bonus day of voting that Democratic counties are disproportionately taking advantage of.
Partisan tactics like this one are nothing new for the former top lawyer of Hilary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.
After 2020, Elias tried to overturn election results in two U.S. House races lost by Democrats, and this year fought mightily to keep North Carolina’s Green Party off the ballot in order to deny progressive Tar Heel voters an alternative to voting Democratic.
Now, Elias has brought his partisan antics to Georgia. Before filing suit he helped concoct an absurd narrative that a defunct holiday that once celebrated Robert E. Lee justified rewriting the state’s laws for partisan gain. And he is touting his case on twitter as a victory for voting access, when in truth his motives appear far more cynical–and desperate.
After all, Georgia Republicans bested Democrats in early voting this year. The midterms saw record early voter turnout, with more than 2.5 million Georgians casting ballots by mail or early in person. Gov. Brian Kemp won the early vote before crushing the Election Day vote and cruising to reelection.
The same occurred in Florida, where early voter turnout heavily favored Republicans and the GOP carried counties that had not gone red in decades.
Early in the runoff, Gov. Kemp reportedly put his team at Walker’s disposal. It is no mystery, then, why Georgia Democrats would fear a fair fight, and instead call in Elias to stack the deck. No amount of smug tweeting to the contrary can make Elias’s strategy any less transparently partisan.
Soon, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case that could curb Elias’s partisan electioneering for good. If the Court rules in that case that lawmakers, not judges, write the laws that govern how elections are conducted, Elias’s opportunities for mischief will be significantly curtailed. Until then, every state is vulnerable to the antics now unfolding in Georgia.
For the sake of our democracy, progressives should stop trying to win elections in the courts. After all, voters deserve fair and honest elections with rules that make it easy to vote and hard to cheat.
Jason Snead is the Executive Director of Honest Elections Project Action.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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