Aug 5, 2022 - News

Judge postpones Public Service Commission election, says system disenfranchises Black voters

Plant vogtle
Plant Vogtle, in Burke County, Ga. Photo: Pallava Bagla/Corbis via Getty Images

A federal judge has effectively postponed two November elections for the Georgia Public Service Commission, ruling that the state's commission district structure "unlawfully dilutes the votes of Black citizens under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act."

Driving the news: In a Friday ruling, Judge Steven Grimberg has prevented the Secretary of State from preparing PSC ballots for Districts 2 and 3 in November, and from administering any future PSC contests with the current structure, by which candidates are elected statewide to represent districts.

Why it matters: Georgia's Public Service Commission regulates the state's investor-owned utilities including Georgia Power. It sets customers' utility rates, can assess fines for pipeline safety and oversees the construction budget of projects like the massive Plant Vogtle nuclear power plant expansion.

Catch up quick: The quasi-legislative, quasi-judicial commission is comprised of five at-large members who are elected statewide, yet assigned to one of five geographic districts.

The big picture: Grimberg, a Trump appointee, said his order "shall remain in effect" until a new method is enacted by the General Assembly and approved by the court, or is adopted by the court if the General Assembly doesn't come up with a new method.

What we're watching: The state defendants have 30 days to appeal.

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