Black voters challenging Georgia’s method of electing members to the state’s public service commission scored a preliminary US Supreme Court order in their favor late Friday.
The decision came after conflicting rulings from lower courts earlier this month, and provides a rare example of the Supreme Court’s 6-3 conservative majority siding with voters over state officials.
Earlier this month, a federal district judge ruled that the current system gives the votes of black residents less weight. Each of the committee’s five seats has jurisdiction over a specific district, but each seatholder is elected in a statewide race that weakens black voters’ power, said that ruling, which came from Trump-appointed Judge Steven. Grimberg.
Grimberg ordered the postponement of a November election for two commissioners to give the state legislature time to create a new system for electing commissioners, and complied with a request from a group of voters who challenged the system.
Last week, however, the 11th Circuit federal appeals court temporarily halted Grimberg’s ruling, citing the “Purcell principle,” which discourages courts from changing election rules immediately before an election.
The Supreme Court on Friday reinstated the Grimberg ruling, with the plaintiffs citing testimony from numerous experts who found the current Georgia Public Service Commission electoral system discriminatory against black voters.
Political data analyst Bernard Fraga, who focuses on community voting, testified that statewide voting causes the majority of Georgia’s white population to outnumber votes from districts with mostly black residents.
“And because the elections are staggered, a minority group is less likely to concentrate its voting power behind a candidate of their choice,” Fraga said, according to the ruling.
The ruling also cited the testimony of Stephen Popick, a former employee of the United States Department of Justice’s civil rights division.
He said his research into Georgia voting between 2012 and 2020 showed “voter polarization” between black and white voters, and the latter’s candidate always won, even though black voters were all behind the same leader as a group.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Nico Martinez told the Guardian on Saturday that he is “confident that the court’s well-reasoned decision will ultimately be upheld” as the case continues to play out on the 11th circuit, which is what Grimberg’s ruling is. could still block on other grounds, clearing the way again. for the November election date.
“We are pleased that the Supreme Court has taken this important step to ensure that the [public service commission] Elections will not be held by a method that unjustifiably dilutes the votes of millions of black citizens in Georgia,” said Martinez, partner at law firm Bartlit Beck.