Voters come to vote in the Georgia Senate runoff on Saturday

By Tyler Estep | The Constitution of the Atlanta Journal

ATLANTA — Johnnie Brooks generally likes to dial early — and early in the day, too.

It usually helps to limit the waiting time. But many of the 78-year-old’s neighbors apparently had the same idea on Saturday morning.

“I was trying to beat the crowd,” Brooks said just after 7 a.m., wrapped in the cold, after casting her ballot at Atlanta’s Metropolitan Library. “But of course it was already full when I came.”

Two counties, DeKalb and Douglas, hosted some in-person polls ahead of Thanksgiving. But in Fulton and about two dozen other jurisdictions across Georgia, Saturday marked the first day of early voting for the December 6 US Senate runoff.

From Atlanta (home of Democratic incumbent Rev. Raphael Warnock’s Ebenezer Baptist Church) to Athens (where Republican Herschel Walker established his soccer fame) and beyond, people seemed to be taking full advantage.

“We got stuck in lines that were four hours long,” said Katie McCarthy, 36, at the Joan P. Garner Library in Atlanta in Ponce de Leon, where the line to vote snaked around one side of the building. “So we knew we had Saturday open and if we had to wait we could do it.”

However, the opportunity almost didn’t materialize.

Shortly after it became clear that a runoff would be required, Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said the Saturday primary was allowed. However, he later reversed course, claiming that state law prohibits voting within two days of a holiday.

Warnock and the Georgia Democratic Party filed a lawsuit arguing that the law does not apply to runoff elections, and a Fulton County judge agreed. Raffensperger’s office then appealed to the State Court of Appeals, which upheld the original verdict.

The office of Secretary of State resigned from there, but the Georgia Republican Party, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and the Republican National Committee did not. They asked the Georgia Supreme Court to comment.

The judges unanimously dismissed the complaint. And several counties, including most of Metro Atlanta, pushed ahead with voting on Saturday.

Impressive lines were reported throughout the morning — and in some places, they only grew from there.

Wait times at the DeKalb County polling station exceeded two hours. A huge line of voters had already gathered in Marietta when Cobb County opened the polls at noon.

“It was more convenient,” said Atlanta voter Harry Johnson. “At work it’s hard to vote when you get off at 5 and you’re trying to get here and you have a thousand people lined up.”

Walker did not announce any public campaign events in advance on Saturday. Warnock had a series of stops, including an afternoon rally in Sandy Springs with several local officials and Senator Cory Booker, DN.J.

Warnock mentioned the lawsuit near the end of his Stump speech, saying, “We had to take it to court just so you can vote today.”

In a subsequent press conference, he called securing the vote on Saturday a victory for democracy.

“People, especially working people, wage earners, are the ones I was thinking about,” Warnock said. “Who doesn’t perhaps have the luxury of voting on a weekday. This gives them another opportunity and people vote with their feet again. They show us that they need it. You use it.”

At 1:30 p.m., the Secretary of State’s chief operating officer, Gabriel Sterling, reported that more than 11,100 votes had been cast in Fulton. More than 7,500 people had voted in Gwinnett and about 3,400 in DeKalb. Almost 1,500 ballots were cast in Cobb.

Many counties also offer voting on Sundays. Every Georgia jurisdiction is required to conduct early voting Monday through Friday.

©2022 The Atlanta Journal Constitution. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC. Voters come to vote in the Georgia Senate runoff on Saturday

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