Judge denies effort to delay statewide Georgia PSC elections

The Richard B. Russell Federal Building is seen on Wednesday, August 5, 2020, in Atlanta. (Elijah Nouvelage for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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The Richard B. Russell Federal Building is seen on Wednesday, August 5, 2020, in Atlanta. (Elijah Nouvelage for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Case over at-large Public Service Commission elections heads to trial

A federal judge on Monday denied an attempt to postpone candidate qualifying for the Georgia Public Service Commission while a lawsuit over the legality of at-large elections is pending.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Steven Grimberg allowed candidates to begin filing papers to run on schedule Monday, hours after his early morning decision.

Grimberg wrote that the plaintiffs failed to show a substantial likelihood of success in their case, which alleges that statewide elections for the Public Service Commission illegally weaken representation of Black voters in violation of the Voting Rights Act.

Commission members must live in one of five districts, but voters from across the entire state are allowed to vote for all commission seats. The Public Service Commission affects the finances of power and natural gas customers in Georgia, setting rates for Georgia Power and Atlanta Gas Light.

Grimberg’s 10-page order said the plaintiffs lacked enough evidence of discriminatory voting practices, racial appeals in political campaigns and inadequate responsiveness by elected officials.

Though Grimberg ruled against the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction, he wrote that they will have an opportunity to present more evidence when the case goes to trial June 27.

If Grimberg decides in favor of the plaintiffs after the trial, he wrote that they could then seek relief before the Nov. 8 general election. The plaintiffs include members of the NAACP, the Black Voters Matter Fund and Georgia Conservation Voters.