Supreme Court weighs in on change to Georgia election law

Earlier this month, a federal judge determined that Georgia’s rules governing election of Georgia Public Service Commission members violated the Voting Rights Act.

Although that ruling was stayed on the grounds that it came too close to the election, the United States Supreme Court just said otherwise.

Federal district court judge found that election law illegally dilutes black votes

According to The New York Times, the case concerned legislation that governs elections for the Georgia Public Service Commission, a five-member body tasked with setting utility rates.

Although each member represents a geographical area of the state, the 1998 law made each commission race a statewide affair.

At issue is the fact that while District 3 is majority black, African American voters only comprise roughly a third of voters in Georgia overall.

As a result, Judge Steven D. Grimberg declared that the law was an impermissible attempt to dilute the voting power of African American residents and that the state would be compelled to end statewide voting.

However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit issued a stay on Grimber’s decision, citing the 2006 case Purcell v. Gonzalez, from which legal scholars have derived something called the Purcell principle.

The principle holds that changes in voting procedure made during the immediate runup to an election are considered to be constitutionally suspect.

Supreme Court agrees that secretary of state waived Purcell argument

Yet the Times noted how that decision to issue a state was not unanimous, with Judge Robin S. Rosenbaum writing a dissent in which he pointed out that attorneys for Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger had urged Grimberg to proceed slowly and explicitly promised not to cite Purcell in an appeal.

“Secretary Raffensperger expressly and purposely waived this argument,” the judge stressed, adding, “He couldn’t have waived this argument more if he tried.”

The Supreme Court sided with Rosenbaum’s assessment in an unsigned order issued on Friday, citing 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.”

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