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Advocates Decry Georgia Supreme Court's Decision Allowing Governor to Invalidate Election Results

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fairly difficult
In a 6-2 decision on Thursday, the Supreme Court decided that the upcoming June election for a seat on the high court need not be held.
Advocates are decrying a ruling from the Georgia Supreme Court this week allowing an appointed justice to invalidate the results of a judicial election, a decision they fear will have far-reaching consequences for democracy in the state.

In a 6-2 decision on Thursday, the justices determined that the upcoming June election for a Supreme Court seat need not be held because the incumbent justice, Keith Blackwell, plans on retiring before the end of the year.

Six sitting justices, including Blackwell, recused themselves from the case. They were replaced by five lower-court judges.

The Georgia Constitution allows the governor to fill judicial vacancies, such as those arising from retirement or resignation, by appointment. Normally, an appointed justice will serve up until a successor is elected in the upcoming general election.

But if the appointment occurs after the November preceding a judicial election, the Constitution says the appointed justice will serve for an additional two years before facing a challenger, blowing completely through the originally scheduled election.

Supreme Court justices usually serve six-year elected terms.

The case was triggered by a challenge to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger's decision to cancel the May 19 Supreme Court election, later postponed to June because of COVID-19, after Blackwell submitted a letter of resignation to Governor Brian Kemp effective November 18.

(Blackwell's government pension will reportedly vest around that date.)

Raffensperger reasoned that because Kemp would be allowed to appoint Blackwell's successor—who, owing to the November rule, would be allowed to serve through 2022—holding an election for Blackwell's seat would be meaningless, a so-called legally nugatory election.

Kemp's office did not respond to a request for comment about the court's ruling.

Elizabeth Beskin, a former state representative, and John Barrow, a former U.S. representative, both attempted to qualify for the defunct race…
Asher Stockler
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