Georgia’s top elections official is holding the line on plans for May 19 voting, even as the state House speaker continues his push for delay.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger writes that he doesn’t have legal authority to further delay Georgia’s presidential primary and other elections originally set for March 24. Those elections were pushed back to May 19, more than the 45 days foreseen in state law, with officials reasoning early voting would resume within 45 days.

The Republican Raffensperger wrote in a Facebook post Saturday that the public health emergency declared by Gov. Brian Kemp is scheduled to expire on April 13. He also wrote that the election had “already been extended the maximum the law allows and cannot be extended again.”

Georgians are also scheduled to vote May 19 for party nominees for one U.S. senator’s post, U.S. House members and state lawmakers. Elections for judges and district attorneys are also set.

House Speaker David Ralston last week called on Raffensperger to delay voting until at least June 23. He renewed his call in a letter Sunday, saying Raffensperger should cite President Donald Trump’s disaster declaration, which doesn’t end April 13, as legal authority. The Blue Ridge Republican also noted that Raffensperger has delayed the election day by 56 days, arguing that already shows that “if an emergency is ongoing, then the 45 days can be extended.”

Raffensperger says there wouldn’t be enough time to hold a June 23 primary, followed by a runoff, and still distribute ballots in time for early voting and absentee balloting to begin on time for the November general election.

In a concession to that issue, Ralston suggested a June 16 election date.

Even then, Georgia Democrats could lose half their delegates to the Democratic National Convention, set for July 13 to 16 in Milwaukee. Party rules say primaries must be held by June 9 and delegates named by June 20. DNC officials have said parties must seek waivers if they vote later.

Raffensperger plans to mail an absentee ballot application to 6.9 million active Georgia voters for the May election, spending an estimated $10 million. The state’s 370,000 inactive voters won’t get applications. Ralston writes that if Raffensperger intends to conduct an all-mail election, lawmakers need to approve that plan.

Raffensperger says he’s planning ways to allow in-person voting while minimizing coronavirus transmission, but says voting and finding enough poll workers “will be challenging” if social distancing recommendations remain in place.

General shot of the Georgia State Capitol. (Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)
General shot of the Georgia State Capitol. (Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

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