As Georgians prepare to vote in the upcoming Senate runoff race between Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and Republican nominee Herschel Walker, Warnock and several Democratic groups are suing Georgia in an effort to expand early voting and open polling places on November 26, the only eligible Saturday for early voting. Right-wing media are angrily reacting to the lawsuit, dismissing the possibility of voter suppression and accusing Warnock and Democrats of trying to game the electoral system.
After no candidate received more than 50% of the vote in the Georgia Senate race general election, as per Georgia law there will be a runoff race between the two candidates with the most votes, Warnock and Walker. While the runoff officially takes place on December 6, the early voting period for the race is expected to run from Monday, November 28 through Friday, December 2 – without a weekend date available for in-person early voting. The confluence of a 2016 state law, which bars voting the day after a state holiday, and a 2021 state law, which cuts the runoff election calendar in half, has eliminated the sole Saturday in the early voting period, November 26, as an option for voters. That Saturday falls two days after Thanksgiving and a day after a state holiday that formerly commemorated Confederate general Robert E. Lee.
The Warnock campaign and Georgia Democrats are now suing the state of Georgia, arguing the lack of Saturday voting for the runoff is a deliberate attempt to “squeeze the people out of their own democracy and to silence the voices of Georgians.” Democrats have also labeled the 2021 law as a means of voter suppression, arguing that a Confederate holiday should not obstruct a crucial extra day for early voting. The Georgia ACLU issued a press release explaining that barring Saturday voting “will create a disparate impact on Black voters, who disproportionately use Saturday early voting compared to white voters.”
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger responded to the lawsuit by asserting that Warnock and Democrats are “seeking to change Georgia law right before an election based on their political preferences" and that they are “muddying the water and pressuring counties to ignore Georgia law.”
Right-wing coverage has echoed Raffensperger’s claims that the lawsuit is an attempt to skew the law to give Democrats the advantage in the race. Some in conservative media are also dismissing concerns about voter suppression by saying that voters have enough time to vote with the law as it currently stands and that poll workers should not have to work the long weekend right after Thanksgiving. Right-wing media have also pointed fingers at Democrats for their supposed hypocrisy and their role in spreading misinformation about the law.
- On The Ingraham Angle, Fox host Laura Ingraham said to guest Walker, “Your opponent Warnock is warning that something very fishy is afoot about the looming runoff,” asking him later, “Are these [Warnock’s efforts against voter suppression] conspiracy theories?” In his reply, Walker accused Warnock of trying to “change the rules in the middle of the game,” reasoning that Warnock has known about the 2021 election law for a “long time.”
- On his Fox program, host Sean Hannity accused Democrats of being “still up to their same dirty tricks” and hoping to “rewrite Georgia's election laws just before the runoff” in their favor. Hannity continued, “It's an obvious effort to try and use an activist judge to overrule a current law to help Warnock who is as vulnerable as ever.”
- A National Review article painted Democrats’ lawsuit as baseless, undermining the November 25 holiday’s connection to Lee because “in 2015 Republican governor Nathan Deal ended the holiday’s controversial affiliation with the Confederate leader.” The piece cited conservative Georgia election official Gabriel Sterling claiming Democrats are only suing Georgia to “cast doubt on the fairness of the vote” and create a false impression that Republicans are “using Robert E. Lee to suppress you.”
- On Newsmax’s The Chris Salcedo Show, host Chris Salcedo blamed Warnock for “essentially trying to change the rules in the middle of the game,” claiming, “That's what the other side does. You know, in 2020, when a Democrat by the name of Stacey Abrams made similar demands, your GOP governor in that state and secretary of state bent over backwards to accommodate Stacey Abrams.”
- Burt Jones, Georgia lieutenant governor-elect, appeared on Newsmax’s American Agenda, dismissing the lawsuit, saying, “There’s been multiple lawsuits saying that ‘the Republicans are trying everything they can to prevent people from voting, trying to suppress the vote,’ and it's quite the opposite. This past election cycle we had record turnout.” Newsmax host Bob Sellers defended the 2016 Georgia law, adding, “You would not have voting on Thanksgiving Day, and the day after, and then that Saturday and that Sunday now, leaving aside that a lot of people feel like well go vote on Election Day or you have another, you know a couple of weeks or three weeks to do it anyway.”
- An article on Townhall undermined Democrat lawyer Marc Elias' lawsuit as “ludicrous” and quoted Fox News contributor Jonathan Turley, who said that Elias “has a well-documented track record of fighting to undo elections [and meddling] in election laws.” The article also asserted that the “attempts to blame alleged racism for the prohibition of voting on November 28 ignore the fact that the state law at play would prohibit voting that Saturday anyway due to another holiday that week — Thanksgiving… But, as usual, facts and reality are of little import for Warnock, Elias, and Democrats.”
- Fox News blatantly targeted MSNBC’s Joy Reid and other mainstream media commentators for “spread[ing] misinformation about Georgians not being able to vote because of Robert E. Lee holiday,” arguing that Thanksgiving is the actual holiday that triggered the law.