The move is a rare example of a conservative court siding with voters over government officials in a dispute over election rules, especially when the court is being asked to act on an emergency basis.
Nico Martinez, a partner at Bartlett Beck LLP, which represented the challengers, said the Supreme Court’s order is an important step to ensure November PSC elections are not held using a system that illegally dilutes the votes of millions of black citizens in Georgia. “
“We look forward to presenting the merits of our case on appeal and hope that the district court’s well-reasoned decision will ultimately be upheld,” Martinez said in a statement.
Georgia’s regulatory authority for investor-owned utilities such as power plants and telecommunications. Its duties include setting residential, commercial and industrial usage rates.
Each of the five commission seats is assigned a specific district in which the commissioner must reside, but the commissioners themselves are elected in statewide elections on a six-year calendar.
But the judge’s ruling was stayed by the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, prompting voters to seek the Supreme Court’s intervention this week.
The arguments on appeal focused, in part, on the so-called Purcell principle, which discourages federal court actions that disrupt election planning near an election.
The Supreme Court held that the 11th Circuit could not use the doctrine to justify a stay of the trial judge’s order. Voters challenging the election rules pointed out that Georgia officials had said the policy would not go into effect if the commission appealed against the current election system.
The Supreme Court order comes after a string of cases in which judges broke down along ideological lines over whether lower court rulings in favor of voting rights advocates should be put on hold because of the upcoming elections.
Similarly, during the 2020 election, the Supreme Court stayed several lower court rulings that made it easier to vote during pandemics.
Most of those orders have been issued without explanation from the majority, but in some cases, conservative justices have written to emphasize that their moves are motivated by adherence to the Purcell principle.