The move was a rare example of the conservative court siding with voters over state officials in disputes regarding election rules, especially when the court is asked to act on an emergency basis.
The Supreme Court restored a district court ruling requiring that this year’s election for two of the commission seats be postponed so that the legislature could create a new system for electing commissioners.
Nico Martinez, a partner at Bartlit Beck LLP who represented the challengers, said the Supreme Court’s order was an “important step toward ensuring that this November’s PSC elections are not held using a method that unlawfully dilutes the votes of millions of Black citizens in Georgia.”
“We look forward to presenting the merits of our case on appeal and are confident the district court’s well-reasoned decision will ultimately be upheld,” Martinez said in a statement.
The district court judge ruled the at-large system for electing members to the commission diluted Black political power in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act.
But the judge’s ruling was then put on hold by the US 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, prompting the voters to seek the Supreme Court’s intervention this week.
Arguments in the appeal have focused, in part, on the so-called Purcell principle, which discourages federal court actions that would disrupt election planning close to an election.
The Supreme Court said that the 11th Circuit should not have used the principle to justify halting the trial judge’s order. The voters challenging the election rules had pointed out that Georgia officials said the principle would not come into play if they appealed any ruling against the current election system for the commission.
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