Supreme Court sides with critics of Georgia election law

In a move that some may find surprising, the Supreme Court has sided with a group of plaintiffs who say election rules regarding the Georgia Public Service Commission violate the Voting Rights Act. 

Judges rules that law dilutes the influence of black voters

As The New York Times explained, the Georgia Public Service Commission is a five member body which is tasked with regulating utility rates.

Each member of the Georgia Public Service Commission represents one of five geographic areas of the state in which he or she must reside.

Yet under a 1998 law, commission members are not selected by residents of their respective districts but are instead chosen by voters across the state.

Critics say that arrangement has the effect of illegally diluting the influence of black voters, since while African Americans make up a majority of residents in District 3, blacks only make up about a third of Georgia voters overall.

The Times noted Judge Steven D. Grimberg agreed and ruled that November’s election cannot take place under the current rules. Yet earlier this month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit issued a stay on his ruling.

The court determined that a principle established in the 2006 case Purcell v. Gonzalez precludes any change in voting rules as the election is only a few short months away.

However, the Supreme Court issued an unsigned order on Friday which reversed the 11th Circuit’s order and reinstated Grimberg’s original ruling.

They argued that the principle in Purcell does not apply by citing Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s “previous representations to the district court that the schedule on which the district court proceeded was sufficient to enable effectual relief as to the November elections should applicants win at trial.”

Plaintiffs “look forward to presenting the merits “

According to CNN, challengers to the Georgia Public Service Commission’s election rules are being represented by the law firm Bartlit Beck LLP.

Nico Martinez is a partner at Bartlit Beck LLP, and the network quoted him as saying in a statement that the Supreme Court’s order represented an “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,” he added.

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