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Is the Ga Constitution Being Violated with New Voter Registrations for January Runoff?

As Trump campaign attorney Lin Wood tweeted that the Georgia Secretary of State was ‘blatantly violating’ the Georgia Constitution – specifically a clause that prohibits voting in runoff elections if the voter was not registered ‘and eligible’ in the general election – many Georgians are asking what the law really says and how does that come into play for January 5th.
AllOnGeorgia explains –>

The Georgia Secretary of State’s Office reported last week that nearly 76,000 new voters registered between the November 3, 2020 election and the voter registration deadline on December 7, 2020. 

The latest numbers were released as Trump campaign attorney Lin Wood tweeted that the Georgia Secretary of State was ‘blatantly violating’ the Georgia Constitution and specifically a clause that prohibits voting in runoff elections if the voter was not registered ‘and eligible’ in the general election.  

So, where does the true lie?

The explanation can be found in the Constitution, state statute, and a Consent Decree signed as part of a judicial order in 2017. 

In Georgia, our Constitution reads that “[a] run-off election shall be a continuation of the general election and only persons who were entitled to vote in the general election shall be entitled to vote therein; and only those votes cast for the persons designated for the runoff shall be counted in the tabulation and canvass of the votes cast.”

This specific Section of Article II has gone viral among Republicans in particular in the wake of the certification of Georgia’s election results in favor of Joe Biden. 

But there is more in play here. A settlement from 2017 following a suit by the The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (representing the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP, the Georgia Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda, ProGeorgia State Table, Third Sector Development, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta) against the state of Georgia is what led the state to stop enforcing Article II, Section II, Paragraph II of the Constitution as it pertains to federal elections. 

Previously, a ‘blackout period’ for voter registration was in place between an election and a runoff election. 

The lawsuit filed in April 2017 alleged that Georgia’s practice of cutting off voter registration for federal run-off elections two months earlier than guaranteed was a violation of federal law, particularly Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 [52 USC 20507(a)(1)]. 

At the time, then-Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s legal counsel, David Dove, told the AJC that the law had been in place since the tenure of Secretary of State Cathy Cox and that the office planned to fight it in court. Cox was a Democrat Secretary of State who held office from 1999 to 2007. Kemp’s office called the lawsuit an attack that was ‘completely political.’

On October 13, 2017, a Consent Decree was signed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia after U.S. District Judge Timothy Batten (a Bush appointee) ruled that against the state. It dismissed ‘the State of Georgia’ from the suit and ordered the Secretary of State’s Office to stop enforcing the aforementioned section of the state Constitution and any similar state statute. In short, the Consent Decree stated that Georgia cannot prescribe a voter registration deadline in any federal election, “including all future federal runoffs, that is longer than the deadline provided under state law and in no case longer than 30 days before an election.” The signing of the order by Kemp, in his capacity as Secretary of State, was an agreement that he would adhere to the order from the judge and the Plaintiffs – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law – claimed victory, as did the Georgia NAACP

Because the January 5th runoff includes two federal races, the legal settlement – which overrides the state Constitution – applies and the voter registration deadline was appropriately set for December 7, 2020.

Technically, the State of Georgia could enforce this Constitutional delineation for the state races on the ballot on January 5th, particularly the Public Service Commission race. The state would then have two ballots – one with federal races and one with state-level races, which would be accompanied by an increase in cost, and persons who registered after November 3, 2020 would only be able to cast a ballot in the Senate races.

If you will recall, the Public Service Commission race was initially slated for December but was moved to January to take place at the same time as the Senate runoffs. Raffensperger, who made the decision, citing a savings to taxpayers and overburdened election workers who were – at the time – working on election audits and recounts.

A few facts

No person registers with a political party in the State of Georgia so there are no ‘registered Republicans’ or ‘registered Democrats’ as is the case in many other states.

For primary elections, if you select a Republican ballot, in the event of a runoff, you must vote in the Republican primary runoff.  If you vote in the Democratic primary or request a nonpartisan ballot in the primary election, your runoff election ballot will be the same as your respective primary election ballot.

If you do not vote in the primary election, Georgia law permits you to vote in either primary election runoff (but never both). [See OCGA 21-2-224 (d)]

There is no requirement to have voted in the presidential preference primary and/or the primary election in order to vote in the General Election, which is always held in November. 

Similarly, a person who did not vote in the General Election is permitted to vote in the General Election runoff.

Jessica Szilagyi is a Statewide Contributor for AllOnGeorgia.com. She focuses primarily on state and local politics as well as issues in law enforcement. She has a background in Political Science with a focus in local government and has a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia. Jessica is a "Like It Or Not" contributor for Fox5 in Atlanta and has two blogs of her own: The Perspicacious Conservative and "Hair Blowers to Lawn Mowers."

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Avatar

    NELDA SMITH

    December 20, 2020 at 9:20 am

    (1). Only the Georgia Legislature can amend, change or create Georgia Law. (2). Any change, creation or amendment made/created by the Governor of Georgia or any court in Georgia is against the Georgia Constitution , i.e. The U.S. Constitution and against Georgia’s Citizens. Georgia’s Governor is a servant of The Citizens Of Georgia and not a king , emperor or despot and has no more right to make, change or amend Georgia’s Laws or Constitution thru any means (even courts) than I or any Georgia Citizen has…We are a Georgia State Republic and any change, creation or amending of our laws must be put before the Georgia Legislature and The Citizens of Georgia. Our Georgia and U.S. Constitution is “By The People, For We The People” and our Constitution, Rights and Laws cannot be changed, amended, disposed or created by any back room court deals . In Georgia, our Constitution reads that “[a] run-off election shall be a continuation of the general election and only persons who were entitled to vote in the general election shall be entitled to vote therein; and only those votes cast for the persons designated for the runoff shall be counted in the tabulation and canvass of the votes cast.”

  2. Avatar

    Dan Washburn

    December 21, 2020 at 2:55 pm

    Well written… thank you

  3. Avatar

    Jana Oto

    December 21, 2020 at 10:32 pm

    Nice try, Nelda! So, which ignorant pin-headed pundit printed all that out for you to copy-paste? Sorry, kiddo..GA and all other states have courts which are emplaced specifically to arbitrate just such conflicts, with their rulings becoming amendment to any pre-existing law (same for localities)! They are legally able to make determinations on issues which may arise, just like this! Again..it’s their appointed job AND the LAW..and neither you nor your prat pundits have an ounce of understanding as to what trees make shingles here! Kemp was the one all gung-ho to “reap the whirlwind” here..now he has to live with the bed he made..in spite of the fact that his opponents have used it against him! Sorry, but how could it be anything BUT unconstitutional for people to be denied the right to vote, when they meet all qualifications?? So, go have your little tantrum..sit in the corner and stamp your heels..just like your Glorious Leader! Live with it..or leave the country! Your choice!

  4. Avatar

    Jana Oto

    December 21, 2020 at 10:40 pm

    PS..Just another thought on the subject..if your asinine premise carried any weight, then what the helle is Hump mucking around with a bezillion ridiculous law-suits, let alone the very FUNCTION of the Supreme Court?? Toots..you need to take your head out of the mothballs and inhale deeply!

  5. Avatar

    R B Luddeke

    December 21, 2020 at 11:07 pm

    The Consent Decree does not make it legal. The State Constitution has to be amended. They all know that, as does anyone who actually reads the Law. This is a end run around the law, with those perpetrating it hoping people are asleep, ignorant, or at best, are willing to ignore this abuse because they like the outcome. Failure to uphold the Constitution of Ga and the US will lead to anarchy. Is that really what you want?

  6. Avatar

    Steve

    December 31, 2020 at 1:42 pm

    Hey oto, who is the pundit here. So we all understand as long as the verdict is what you want, doesn’t matter how you got it. But, suppose these “racist” republican governors went to the majority “racist” republican state supreme judges and changed the voting law to restrict minorities’ votes to only 1/3 of a vote. That is now the new voting law, without legislative voting. Would you like that verdict? How can you not see the lack of checks and balances in what you cheer for? Oh, because you got what you wanted.

  7. Avatar

    Mike

    January 1, 2021 at 3:54 pm

    @Nelda Smith, Georgia like every other State, has an increasing population of low life thieves like @Jana Oto. They defy common sense and prey on stupid people and taxpayer money. It makes too much sense to limit the runoff to the same group of general election votes. The NAACP declared victory in this court case because they can now manipulate the outcome. The only other observation could be that their membership can’t figure out how to register on time.

  8. Avatar

    Brian

    January 10, 2021 at 12:18 am

    This is the same bs that occurred in multiple other states in the general election. People who do not legally have the right to make changes to voting rules and regulations set forth by state constitutions make changes that are not legal, thus affecting results cast by those who followed the laws.

    Just follow the rules. Register on time, Vote on time. Have an id, sign the ballot with the same signature you use for everything else. Its that easy.

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