State of Georgia

Georgia Public Service Commission Elections Challenge

Rose v. Raffensperger

Lawsuit filed by Black voters registered in Fulton County, Georgia challenging the at-large method used to elect members of the Public Service Commission, which is responsible for regulating public utilities in Georgia. The plaintiffs allege the at-large elections used to select commissioners violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) by diluting Black voting power. In support of this argument, the plaintiffs note that “Commissioners have been chosen by statewide election since 1906. Yet no African American has ever been elected to the Public Service Commission without having first been appointed by the governor. And even then, only one African American has ever served on the Commission.” On Aug. 5, a federal judge determined that the commission’s statewide elections dilute Black voting power in violation of the VRA and that “while delaying elections…until a later date will regrettably cause disruption to the candidates currently running for those offices, the court does not find that such disruption outweighs the important VRA interests that are implicated.” 

This case was then appealed to the 11th Circuit, which stayed (meaning paused) the district court’s order. On Aug. 19, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the 11th Circuit’s stay, holding that 11th Circuit’s misapplied the Purcell principle but “the Eleventh Circuit may reconsider whether a stay pending appeal is appropriate subject to sound equitable discretion.” On Aug. 19, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) withdrew his motion to stay the injunction pending appeal, meaning that elections for the Public Service Commission will not be held this November. An appeal will continue to be litigated before the 11th Circuit.

Case Documents (district court)

Case Documents (11th Circuit)

Case Documents (u.s. supreme court)

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