On August 19, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated a decision by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which had halted a lower court’s order finding that the way in which Georgia elects its Public Service Commissioners was discriminatory. Specifically, the District Court for the Northern District of Georgia found that electing commissioners for Public Service Commission (PSC) districts at large, i.e., on a statewide basis, disadvantaged Black voters by diluting their voting power and, further, ruled that the State of Georgia must postpone its upcoming elections for commissioners to the two PSC districts that would have otherwise been on the ballot this November (Districts 2 and 3) until a new system for electing PSC commissioners could be established.
After the Supreme Court issued its decision, the State of Georgia withdrew its emergency motion seeking a stay that would prevent the District Court’s ruling from taking effect, capitulating that the ballots must be printed now to be ready by the November election and that there would not be time to add the elections for the PSC commissioners back onto the ballot even if the courts ultimately determined that those elections should proceed.
The Supreme Court has weighed in on a number of similar lawsuits challenging the fairness of maps after redistricting occurred in various states and generally has been unwilling to intervene in a manner that would disrupt preparations for an upcoming election. In this case, however, by vacating the Eleventh Circuit’s stay of the District Court’s order, the Supreme Court did the opposite here, essentially requiring that the PSC elections set for this year be postponed.
In light of the Supreme Court’s decision, the Eleventh Circuit will still determine whether to affirm or reverse the District Court’s ruling which found the voting process for electing PSC commissioners to be discriminatory, but regardless the elections for PSC District 2 and District 3 commissioners will not occur this November.