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Public Service Commission races off General Election ballot due to Voting Rights Act legal challenge


After weeks of back and forth regarding the Public Service Commission races being included in the General Election, the matter was decided on Friday. Georgia officials announced that they were dropping their push for a stay that may have kept the two PSC races on the November ballot. Expressing concerns about ballots being printed; the state said it didn’t want to jeopardize the fast-approaching election by pushing for the PSC races. With this move from the Secretary of State’s (SOS) office, the elections for the PSC seats will not be held until the legal challenges are over.

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the elections, this decision by the SOS comes after the justices vacated an appeals court decision in the voting rights case. The Supreme Court ruled Friday morning that the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta erred in its decision earlier this month to allow November’s vote to go forward after a lower court judge ruled statewide elections for PSC members discriminate against Black voters. The high court said the appeals court should review the case through the lens of a different legal framework and reconsider whether a stay, which would allow this fall’s elections to continue as planned, is appropriate.

The state had an opportunity to do as the higher court directed and had signaled that they would ask the court to allow elections in the PSC races to be held as planned while the appeals case moves forward at the 11th circuit. Later in the day, the state withdrew its motion for an emergency stay. 

In its filing, attorneys representing Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger — the state’s top elections official — said ballot printing for the Nov. 8 elections would start Monday and that pursuing the motion to stay risked jeopardizing its preparations and confusing Georgia’s voters. 

Raffensperger said in a statement, “While we will continue the state’s appeal of the merits of the order, no decision will be reached in time for November’s elections.”

The latest developments in the PSC races mean current PSC members, Vice-Chairman Tim Echols and Commissioner Fitz Johnson, both Republicans, will continue to serve on the PSC until elections can be called for their seats, even if the appeals case is not decided until next year. Democrat Nominee Patty Durand and Libertarian Nominee Colin McKinney were set to take on Echols in the District 2 race, while Democratic Nominee Shelia Edwards was set to take on Johnson in the District 3 race. Edwards applauded the court’s decision relative to the Voting Rights Act. As the Democratic Nominee, she will continue to campaign, educate the public about how the PSC impacts the lives of Georgians, and be prepared when the election for the PSC seats is announced. 

The PSC’s five seats are voted on statewide, but candidates are required to live in one of five districts for 12 months prior to the general election.

The federal voting rights case that drew the Supreme Court’s attention Friday was delayed by the pandemic and went to trial in June. With nearly one-third of Georgia voters being Black, the lawsuit centered on whether Georgia’s system of statewide elections for PSC seats dilutes the power of Black voters because the state’s white majority typically elects Republicans. In the history of the 143-year-old PSC, only one Black candidate has ever won a seat.

As the Republican candidates remain in office, the Democratic and Liberation nominees in the PSC race are patiently waiting for the legal challenge to play itself out in court so they can have their chances with voters at the ballot box. 


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