U.S. Supreme Court puts Georgia’s PSC elections on hold again

Gavel and scales of justice
Gavel and scales of justice(MGN)
Published: Aug. 12, 2022 at 3:23 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - The U.S. Supreme Court has vacated a federal appeals court decision, which means the November elections for Georgia’s Public Service Commission are on hold again.

The Supreme Court ruled that the 11th U.S. Circuit Court in Atlanta made an error in its decision last week.

Statement from Nico Martinez, Partner, Bartlit Beck LLP, counsel for plaintiffs in Rose v. Raffensperger:

“We are pleased that the Supreme Court took this important step toward ensuring that this November’s PSC elections are not held using a method that unlawfully dilutes the votes of millions of Black citizens in Georgia. We look forward to presenting the merits of our case on appeal and are confident the district court’s well-reasoned decision will ultimately be upheld.”

ORIGINAL STORY

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals restored this fall’s statewide elections for the Georgia Public Service Commission. The 2-1 decision came after a district judge ruled against the at-large voting method the state uses to elect commissioners. The at-large method means voters elect every commissioner, no matter if they live in that commissioner’s district. Someone living in Atlanta can vote for the commissioner in Savannah and vice versa.

U.S. District Steve Grimberg voted in favor of a lawsuit claiming the method violated the Voting Rights Act by diluting the power of Black voters across the state.

Friday’s decision only stays the injunction, finding that Grimberg’s decision came too close to the November elections and did not allow enough time for “meaningful appellate review.” Grimberg’s injunction was issued Aug. 5.

Judges Robert Luck and Adalberto Jordan voted for the stay, but fully realize the case may be headed for the U.S. Supreme Court. Judge Robin Rosenbaum dissented, writing “if we (as I think likely) determine that the current system violates the Voting Rights Act, then Black Georgians in Districts 2 and 3 are stuck — for the next six years, until 2029 — with commissioners whom they didn’t have their full role in selecting.”

The commission regulates Georgia Power and other utilities around the state.