A federal judge ruled Friday that Georgia must end statewide elections for the Public Service Commission because they discriminate against Black voters, a decision that could bar state officials from holding a November election to fill two seats.
U.S. District Judge Steven Grimberg wrote in a 64-page decision that statewide elections for the panel dilute Black voting power, which is illegal under the federal Voting Rights Act. That likely means that an election for the two seats on the utility regulating panel will be postponed for months, unless the decision is reversed on appeal.
“While delaying elections for Districts 2 and 3 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,” the judge wrote.
Attorney General Chris Carr’s office said it was reviewing whether to appeal. There was no immediate timeline on a potential new election for the two commissioners who were to be on the November ballot: Republican incumbents Tim Echols and Fitz Johnson
The ruling likely will lead to an overhaul of how commissioners are now elected. State law now requires commission members to live in one of five districts but allows voters from across the entire state to cast ballots for all commission seats.