By Kanishka Singh
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Georgia Supreme Court allowed counties to hold early ballots this Saturday in the second round of the US Senate election between Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker, rejecting a bid from state Republicans to block the early vote.
The unanimous one-sentence ruling on Wednesday by the court upheld last week’s decision by a Fulton County judge that blocked a directive from Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican. That directive had prohibited counties from voting on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
Eighteen of Georgia’s 159 counties planned to vote on Saturday, Gabriel Sterling, one of Georgia’s top election officials, said on Twitter late Tuesday.
For the second time in less than two years, a race in the US Senate in Georgia will lead to a runoff, this time between Warnock and Walker, who is backed by former President Donald Trump.
Unlike last time, the vote will not determine whether President Joe Biden’s Democrats control the Senate, where they already won enough seats in the midterm elections to maintain their razor-thin majority. The Republicans won a narrow majority in the House of Representatives.
A Walker victory would boost national Republicans as their position in the state of Georgia has eroded in recent years toward the Democrats. A victory in Warnock could indicate that the Democrats are penetrating places where they have struggled to gain traction in the past.
The Democrats had the narrowest possible majority in the 50-50 Senate for the past two years, with Vice President Kamala Harris giving them the casting vote.
That has caused major headaches for Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, as two wayward members of his party – Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema – repeatedly blocked some legislative maneuvers.
(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington; editing by Andrea Ricci)