The Supreme Court issued an emergency order on Aug. 19 blocking upcoming elections for Georgia’s Public Service Commission, upholding a lower court ruling that found that the election rules currently in place discriminate against black voters.
The order is unusual because, in recent years, the high court has generally been reluctant to side with voters over state officials in disputes over election rules, especially when the court has been asked to act in an emergency posture.
The state’s Public Service Commission (PSC) regulates electric, natural gas, and telecommunications companies. There are five elected commissioners. Since 1906, commissioners have been elected on a statewide at-large basis.
Elections for two of the five seats were scheduled for Nov. 8. If the legal dispute isn’t resolved soon, those elections might not proceed.
The system “must change,” according to Grimberg, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump. The challenge to the PSC elections was brought by Georgia voters, one of whom, Richard Rose, is president of the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP.
‘Compelling Evidence’In his decision, Grimberg wrote that at trial, an expert presented “highly persuasive and compelling evidence of racial polarization in PSC elections.”
“In each of the six most recent general and runoff elections for PSC commissioners, Black voters supported the same candidate at a rate greater than 94%,“ he wrote. ”Despite this strong cohesion, the Black-preferred candidate lost in all elections despite the Black-preferred candidate going to a runoff in two of those elections.”
The Supreme Court case is Rose v. Raffensperger, court file 22A136. The application to vacate the appeals court’s stay allowing elections to proceed was presented to Justice Clarence Thomas, who oversees the 11th Circuit. Thomas referred it to the full Supreme Court, which issued the order. No justices dissented from the unsigned order.