11th Circuit Will Allow Elections For Georgia Public Service Commission

WASHINGTON, D.C. — After several years of not holding elections for the Georgia Public Service Commission, the 11th Circuit will allow new elections using a method that the lower court found violates the Voting Rights Act. 

This order comes as voters recently took their case — originally filed in 2020 — to the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that the state’s at-large method for selecting members of the body that is responsible for regulating public utilities in Georgia violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. 

Georgia’s public service commissioners can have major impacts on voters’ everyday lives. As the Savannah Morning News explained in 2022, the commission plays an important part in people’s daily lives as “it determines how much Georgia Power customers pay for electricity, and where that electricity comes from.”

In August 2022, a federal district court judge determined that the Public Service Commission’s at-large elections violated Section 2 of the VRA and delayed the 2022 elections for the commission. However, Republican officials appealed the ruling and the 11th Circuit ultimately sided with them, allowing an at-large system for PSC elections. There have not yet been any elections for the positions since 2020 despite two Republican members’ terms expiring in 2022. Republican officials appealed the ruling that held that the method violated the VRA to the 11th Circuit which ultimately sided with them and reversed the district court’s decision.

Last month, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) announced that elections will not be held for the commission this year either due to the ongoing lawsuit. Recently, the Georgia Legislature sent a bill to add an additional two years to the six-year terms of commissioners on the all-Republican commission to Gov. Brian Kemp (R)‘s desk where it is waiting to be signed. 

The order issued today allows the state to proceed with its at-large elections system for the commission. Briefing remains ongoing in the U.S. Supreme Court, which has not yet decided if it will take the case.

Read the order here.

Learn more about the case here.