A three-judge bench of a federal appeals court said Friday Georgia could hold Public Service Commission (PSC) elections in November as originally planned.
The appellate court’s 2-1 decision overturned a lower court’s order from last week. That initial order had blocked Georgia from holding PSC elections in two of the state’s five districts until the state changed the rules around voting for the PSC members.
The PSC regulates the state’s public utilities and sets utility rates. Under Georgia’s system, commissioners run statewide but must live in one of five districts.
The current case began when a group of prominent Black leaders sued the state, claiming the Black vote had been diluted.
A federal district court ruled in the group’s favor last week, finding Georgia’s unusual system for electing the commissioners violates the federal Voting Rights Act. The state immediately appealed.
Today’s majority appellate court opinion said recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings have made clear federal courts should not block elections close to the voting date.
“But if we are mistaken on this point, the Supreme Court can tell us,” the ruling concludes.
By Friday evening, the plaintiffs had already filed an emergency motion asking the circuit court to reverse course and indicating they would appeal.
And lawyers for Georgia had already responded.
“At the end of the day, the Secretary [of State] needs to know what to do: Does he include PSC races on the ballot proofs …or wait for further direction?,” the state’s response said.
This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.