Previously we wrote about a candidate for the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC), Patty Durand, who faced possible removal from the ballot because her PSC district (District 2) was redrawn to exclude the county in which she resided less than one year before the general election in November. Georgia law requires that candidates to be commissioner of a PSC district must reside in that district for at least one year prior to the election.
Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger issued a decision disqualifying Durand for failure to meet that residency requirement. However, Durand appealed the Secretary’s decision, and Fulton County Superior Court Judge Melynee Leftridge stayed Durand’s disqualification pending adjudication of the appeal. On August 18, 2022, Judge Leftridge issued her Final Order.
Judge Leftridge held that the one-year residency requirement for PSC candidates was unconstitutional as applied to Durand because it violated her First Amendment right to free association and her Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection. Judge Leftridge noted that text messages between Durand’s opponent, the incumbent PSC Commissioner for District 2, and another PSC commissioner “strongly” suggested that the “district lines were motivated, at least in part, by a desire to draw Ms. Durand’s address out of District 2.”
Separate litigation unrelated to Durand’s candidacy has now postponed the election for District 2 PSC commissioner, which will no longer occur this November. In that litigation, a federal court found the manner in which Georgia elects its PSC commissioners to be discriminatory and ruled that no PSC elections may occur until a new system for electing PSC commissioners could be established.