Federal judge tells PSC the way it elects commissioners unlawfully dilutes votes of Black citizens

·2 min read

This November, you might not get to vote for the people who help set your power and gas rates, the Public Service Commission.

A federal court judge said the way Georgia has elected them discriminates against Black voters.

A federal judge ruled Friday that the way Georgia elects commissioners unlawfully dilutes the African American vote.

This 64-page ruling puts an immediate stop to the November election for two Public Service Commission seats.

“The court finds that this method of election unlawfully dilutes the votes of Black citizens under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and must change,” the ruling said.

The Georgia NAACP brought the suit and celebrated the legal victory.

Right now, PSC commissioners must live in their districts, but they’re elected at-large by voters statewide.

But Judge Steven Grimberg said this way of voting, done since 1906, is unlawful. He ordered the state to stop preparing ballots for November’s election and told the legislature they must fix the problem before the state can hold any new PSC elections.

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Legal analyst Phil Holloway, who taught constitutional law at Kennesaw State University, said he doesn’t quite understand the ruling and expects the state will appeal — and soon.

“Right out of the gate, I can tell you that the state most likely will appeal to the 11th Circuit very quickly because, of course, they want to get this election done in November,” Holloway said.

In January, state lawmakers redrew the PSC district lines at the same time it redrew the legislative and Congressional districts in what was, at the time, a bitterly divisive battle between the Republican majority and Democratic minority.

There are currently three different lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of those maps as well, though Holloway said that legal challenge is different than this one.

“They might look and feel similar, but they’re not really directly related,” Holloway said.

There was no comment Friday from the attorney general’s office, the secretary of state or the Public Service Commission.

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