Federal judge rules against the state, in favor of challengers in Georgia Public Service Commission election lawsuit
ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - A federal judge has ruled in the lawsuit that challenged the state-wide, also known as at-large, voting of electing commissioners for the Georgia Public Service Commission.
Previously, the entire state elects five commissioners on PSC who represent five different districts. Which means, for example, someone living in north Georgia would vote for a commissioner in south Georgia even though that commissioner doesn’t represent their district.
U.S. District Judge Steve Grimberg ruled in favor of the lawsuit on Friday.
Specifically, the court said that the at-large method of electing commissioners for the position violates the Voting Rights Act, and dilutes the votes. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has been ordered not to use the at-large method in any future PSC election, including the upcoming election in November.
“When I found out that we won this case, I shouted, I screamed, I laughed and cried - all at once. It was overwhelming. A wave of emotions. As activists, as organizers, especially around climate and racial justice - we don’t win often,” said Brionte McCorkle, a plaintiff on the lawsuit against the state.
The election will be postponed unless there is a different decision in appeal court.
The Georgia NAACP was overjoyed with the decision.
“Strong step towards protecting the rights of many Georgians around the state and it reaffirms the power of the voting rights act to make sure the state does not trample the right of minority -- particularly African American voters,” said Gerald Griggs, Georgia NAACP state president.
Rose v. Raffensperger was filed in July. All four plaintiffs in the case are registered African-American voters. In the lawsuit, they alleged that “because of the interaction between the electoral system used by the state in which they reside and racial bloc voting, they have less opportunity than other members of the electorate to elect representatives of their choice.”
The complaint alleged that their votes were diluted as a result of allegedly discriminatory electoral practices adopted by the jurisdiction in which they vote, which is a violation of the Voting Rights Act.
Over 30% of voters in Georgia are Black.
Non-partisan political consultant, Fred Hicks, says this will make a big difference in the outcome of elections.
“It’s huge. It’s a huge victory for the everyday voter, particularly those here in the metropolitan Atlanta,” said Hicks.
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