Georgia judge shoots down Republican effort to restrict operating hours for ballot drop boxes

Republicans trying to ensure the upcoming Senate runoff races in Georgia are free and fair just suffered a devastating loss in court.

According to the Washington Examiner, a judge in Georgia ruled Thursday against a GOP-led push to force ballot drop boxes across the Peach State to close whenever local election offices are closed.

The judge’s decision means ballot drop boxes will continue to remain open 24/7, albeit under video surveillance.

The ruling comes ahead of a pair of runoff races that will decide control of the U.S. Senate. Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue will battle it out against Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, respectively, on Jan. 5, according to NBC News.

Changing the rules?

According to the Washington Examiner, the lawsuit was first filed earlier this month by the Georgia Republican Party and Republican National Committee. The GOP argued that since the drop boxes for absentee ballots serve as mere satellites of county election offices, they should be subject to the same operating hours.

However, an attorney for the secretary of state’s office countered that the State Election Board had approved a rule change earlier this year that permitted the drop boxes to be available at all times, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

During the hearing, a representative for the Georgia attorney general’s office also accused the GOP of trying to change the rules in the middle of the game.

Pushing back, an attorney for the GOP, Leah Zammit, cited the impending runoff elections as the impetus behind the initial rule change.

“This case is absolutely not about the expansion or dilution of voter rights,” Zammit said, according to the Washington Examiner. “This case and this motion is about ensuring that individual counties, 159 within the state of Georgia, do not themselves alter the election rules.”

A question of jurisdiction

But at the end of the day, none of that really mattered to Fulton County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Esmond Adams, who dismissed the case on the grounds that, due to the state’s sovereign immunity laws that protect state officials from lawsuits, she had no jurisdiction to even hear the case, much less issue a definitive decision on it.

Moving forward, Republicans aren’t giving up the fight, however. Atlanta’s WSB-TV reported that just one day prior to Adams’ ruling, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger called upon the state legislature to limit the use of absentee ballots in future elections by requiring voters to provide a valid reason for voting by mail.

“It makes no sense when we have three weeks of in-person, early voting available,” Raffensperger said during a Wednesday committee hearing, according to WSB-TV. “It opens the door to potential illegal voting, especially in light of the federal rules that denies the ability to keep voter registration files clean.”

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