Is the Georgia Senate runoff election fair to Republicans?

God gave us brains to think with, so let’s see if we can figure out this brain-teaser.

Political factions have been gaming elections since the first Neanderthal tribal chieftain election ~400,000 years ago, when voting was with clubs.

Today’s USA elections aren’t necessarily a whole lot more civilized; substitute lawyers for sticks and you have pretty much the same thing.

As you probably know, Georgia is holding a U.S. Senate runoff election on Dec. 6. The candidates are Rev. Raphael Warnock (D), the incumbent, and Herschel Walker, a former NFL star who suffered so many concussions he doesn’t know how many kids he has.

According to Huffington Post (here), “Georgia law requires that counties hold five days of early voting from Monday, Nov. 28, through Friday, Dec. 2. But counties are also allowed to hold three additional days of early voting.” (Italics added by me for emphasis.) Because early voting must end on the Friday before an election (details here), that would have to be before Nov. 28.

Okay, those are the ground rules; whether you agree with early voting or not, that’s the way it is, because it’s the law. If you disagree with the law, then talk to your state legislators about changing it.

Here’s the problem: “Some counties want to offer early voting on Saturday, when many voters are off work,” and Republicans don’t like that for whatever reason. And Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger (R), said “county election officials could not schedule early voting on a Saturday after a public holiday like Thanksgiving, citing state law.” Let’s assume that’s the law, because I doubt Raffensperger would make that up.

The Democrats didn’t like that, so they sued, arguing “that provision applies only to primary or general elections, not runoffs.” Given that a Fulton County judge agreed, and the Georgia Court of Appeals declined to overturn that decision this week,” let’s assume that’s the law, too, because I doubt judges would make things up. Also, in case you don’t know, Fulton County includes Atlanta, which has a lot of voters, few of them white, and most of them Democrats.

Raffensperger said he’ll accept the Court of Appeals ruling, so the RNC, NRSC, and Georgia GOP appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court asking for an emergency stay to block Saturday voting.

Their argument goes about like this: “The groups claim only ‘Democrat-leaning’ counties plan to conduct early voting, which, they argue, eviscerates ‘the statutorily-required uniformity among Georgia’s counties on that day.’” Notice they’re not saying it’s unfair; they’re saying Georgia law doesn’t allow it.

A spokesman for Raffensperger, who by now probably is throwing up his hands, said, “We believe this is something the General Assembly should consider clarifying to avoid confusion in the future.”

Let’s also throw this into the mix: “Georgia shortened the time frame for runoff campaigns as part of a 2021 voting law decried by Democrats and voting rights advocates. The shortened calendar, less than a month from the general election, makes the early-voting period coincide with Thanksgiving.”

Okay, that’s the lay of the land; now let’s figure this out.

First of all, both the Republicans and Democrats have submitted this dispute to Georgia’s courts; so everybody is playing by legal rules (so far), therefore we will, too. (The violent Republican mob won’t show up until the ballots are being counted.) And that being the case, what’s fair has nothing to do with it; courts decide disputes according to the law. So we have to figure out how the law resolves this.

The best way to unravel this sweater is to begin by pulling on the bottom threads. Georgia law requires that counties hold early voting from Monday through Friday, Nov. 28 – Dec. 2, and allows counties to hold three more days of early voting from Nov. 25 (a Friday) to Nov. 27 (a Sunday). That’s the general rule.

But the 2021 voting law dumped the early voting for this election into a holiday period, and if a specific rule prohibiting Saturday voting in a holiday period applies, then counties can hold only two optional days of early voting before the mandatory early voting period kicks in. But that rule (read it here) only refers to primaries and elections, and doesn’t mention runoffs, which two courts have decided therefore aren’t included.

Nevertheless, Republicans argue that, even given this interpretation of the rule, another rule says on that day, and only that day, all counties have to do it the same. I’m not sure where they get this from, as I haven’t found their brief online; but if that’s true, then any one county could prevent all the other counties from holding early voting on Saturday, Nov. 26, simply by not holding optional early voting. To get there logically, you have to conclude that a single county holds veto power over what the other 158 counties can or can’t do.

This is an extraordinary conclusion, and I don’t think the Georgia Supreme Court will buy it, because the whole concept of an optional early voting period is that each county makes its own decision independently of what other counties do.

So I expect the Republicans will lose.

Now let’s come back to the question of what’s “fair.” The Republicans, basically, are complaining that such an outcome is unfair because GOP-leaning counties are disinclined to hold early voting on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and if Democrats go ahead and do that, it gives them an unfair advantage. But is it really unfair, when the GOP-leaning counties could hold Saturday voting, too, if they wanted to?

Let’s say Little Mikey decides to punch himself in the face, and I decide not to, is it unfair that he has a bloody nose and I don’t?

I actually don’t think it’s all that hard to figure out.

Update (11/23/22): The Georgia Supreme Court rejected the GOP appeal in a unanimous, one-sentence ruling (see story here).

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