Georgia Republicans canceled a state court election. That may be unconstitutional.
5 min read
fairly difficult
It's far from clear what happens if they succeed.
Georgia Supreme Court Justice Keith Blackwell's six-year term expires at the end of this year, and the state is supposed to hold an election in May to choose his replacement.

Then something bizarre happened. And one of the central players in this narrative is the Republican governor who is widely viewed as an enemy by the voting rights community, due to credible allegations that he engaged in voter suppression that tilted the state's 2018 gubernatorial race in his favor.

In late February, just a few days before the deadline for candidates to replace Blackwell to file to run in the May election, Blackwell sent a letter to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, announcing that he intends to resign from the state Supreme Court effective November 18 — a few weeks before his term was scheduled to expire on December 31. (The May election is intended to choose a new justice who will take office after Blackwell's term expires.)

Then, on March 1, Kemp's office informed the state's Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, that the governor intends to appoint someone to replace Blackwell — that appointment would presumably take effect on November 18, when Blackwell steps down.

In response, Raffensperger, the state's top elections officer, decided to cancel the May election. Raffensperger's lawyers claim that the governor's appointments power kicked in as soon as the governor accepted Blackwell's resignation — although it is not at all clear why the governor could appoint someone to serve beyond the remainder of Blackwell's term.

If the May election does not happen, the result could be chaotic, as it's far from clear who, if anyone, would occupy Blackwell's seat after the departing justice's term expires on December 31.

Canceling the election appears to be unconstitutional

As a constitutional matter, Raffensperger's decision to cancel the election is highly dubious. The Georgia Constitution provides that "all Justices of the Supreme Court and the Judges of the Court of…
Ian Millhiser
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