Georgia government to fight Saturday voting, as northwest counties pass on adding day

This combination of photos shows, Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Aug. 3, 2021, left, and Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker speaking in Perry, Ga., Sept. 25, 2021. (AP Photo)

Most of the counties in Northwest Georgia have decided against adding an extra day of early voting in advance of the Dec. 6 runoff election.

A judge ruled Friday that Georgia law allows counties to hold a day of Saturday early voting for the election.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock is facing Republican challenger Herschel Walker in the runoff because neither candidate earned more than 50% of the vote in the Nov. 8 general election. Georgia counties are holding early voting Nov. 28 through Dec. 2.

The lawsuit to allow a day of Saturday voting on the weekend after Thanksgiving was brought by Warnock's campaign, the Democratic Party of Georgia and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

A request for comment from the Warnock campaign wasn't returned before deadline, while the Office of Secretary of State disagreed with the ruling.

"We've been following the law on this matter and the law is pretty clear," said Mike Hassinger, a spokesperson for Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in an email. "We disagree with the court's order and look forward to a prompt appeal by Georgia's Attorney General."

Dade County's election board will decide Tuesday afternoon whether the Saturday voting option will be added, while the region's six other counties have decided against adding the day. Several counties are staying open late on certain days instead.

It's unclear how many other counties statewide will hold early voting on Nov. 26, but 11 Alive, Atlanta's NBC affiliate, reported that Fulton County has added the Saturday voting; DeKalb County was working to make that day happen; and Cobb County was determining whether staff was available to open the polls the additional day.

Tonya Moore, elections director for Catoosa County, said the county's board decided not to have Saturday voting because it would be hard to staff on such short notice due to the holiday weekend.

"If the state sends out something saying we're required to do it, then we would be open that Saturday, but the board already said no," Moore said.

Early voting in Catoosa County is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 28 through Friday, Dec. 2, at both the Ringgold Precinct, 5238 Evitt St. in Ringgold, and Westside precinct, 3319 Lakeview Drive in Rossville. On Thursday, Dec. 1, the polls will be open late, until 7 p.m.

For more information, contact Catoosa County Elections & Voter Registration at 706-935-3990.

In Dade County, Lowanna Vaughn, Dade County elections supervisor, said Saturday voting isn't usually that well attended. Early voting in Dade County is held at the Dade County Administrative Building at 71 Case Ave. in Trenton from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday, Nov. 28, through Friday, Dec. 2.

"We've never had that many show up for Saturday voting, and with this short notice, I'm not sure we'd have anyone," Vaughn said.

Even though Dade County elections officials haven't heard anything from the Secretary of State's Office, the county's election board is meeting Tuesday afternoon to make a decision if Saturday voting becomes an option. Usually, a seven-day notice is required for elections, but Vaughn said the judge's ruling waived that requirement.

For more information, contact the Dade County Board of Elections and Registration at 706-657-8170.

In Walker County, Danielle Montgomery said the board has already decided that early voting will be held Monday, Nov. 28 through Friday, Dec. 2, and there were no plans to change that.

Early voting in Walker County will be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at both the Walker County Courthouse, 103 S. Duke St. in LaFayette and the Chickamauga Civic Center, 1817 Lee Clarkson Road, in Chickamauga. For more information contact the Walker County Board of Elections & Registration at 706-638-4349.

Shea Hicks, director and chairperson of the Gordon County Elections and Voter Registration Office, said the county's election board made the decision not to hold Saturday voting for the runoff in Gordon County. Having a Saturday of advanced voting after a holiday would lessen turnout, Hicks said, and not many people vote on advanced voting Saturdays.

"We thought it would be beneficial, more beneficial, to extend the hours an extra hour each day," Hicks said. Gordon County is having advanced voting from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 28 to Dec. 2 at the Elections Office, 408 Court St. in Calhoun. For more information, contact the Gordon County Elections and Voter Registration Office at 706-629-7781.

Larry Sampson said the county's election board decided not to offer Saturday early voting for the runoff. The board didn't state a reason, but he said most of the counties near Murray weren't having Saturday voting either.

Murray County is holding early voting next week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 651 Hyden Tyler Road. Murray County Elections Office can be contacted at 706-517-1400.

Chattooga County has no plan to add Saturday voting, said Sheena Weaver, the county's chief registrar.

"We don't normally do Saturday voting in runoff elections anyway," Weaver said. "And with it being so close to the holiday, a lot of our workers are actually traveling for that, so we're most likely not going to be voting on Saturday."

The two Saturdays of early voting for the 2022 General Election had the lowest turnout of the entire early voting period, Weaver said.

Chattooga County runoff early voting is held at the Registrars Office, 10017 Commerce St. in Summerville from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Chattooga County Registrars Office can be contacted at 706-857-0739.

Whitfield County isn't open Saturday for runoff early voting, said Andrea Springfield, absentee ballot clerk.

Springfield said she didn't know why the board made that decision but thinks it was because of the holidays.

Early voting for the runoff in Whitfield County is held next week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the county's Board of Elections Office, 205 N. Selvidge St., Suite K in Dalton. On Thursday, the county's early voting locations will be open until 7 p.m., Springfield said.

Whitfield County Board of Elections and Registrar can be contacted at 706-278-7183.

Contact Andrew Wilkins at awilkins@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659. Follow him on Twitter @tweetatwilkins.