[Atlanta, Georgia – April 30, 2024] — This week, plaintiffs Brionté McCorkle, Wanda Mosely, James Woodall, and Richard Rose appeal their case to the United States Supreme Court alleging that statewide Georgia Public Service Commission elections violate the Voting Rights Act. The appeal seeks to overturn the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals’ November 2023 ruling that allows the State of Georgia to continue discriminatory statewide elections for Georgia Public Service Commissioners. Despite announcing its ruling in November 2023, the 11th circuit court of appeals has held the mandate.

Following the appeal, Brionté McCorkle, Executive Director of GCV and plaintiff in the case, released the following statement: 

“Not only has the commission relentlessly increased power bills on Georgians who are dealing with inflation from all angles, they have also passed the largest rate increase the state has ever seen to cover Vogtle cost overruns. We remain committed to defending the rights of all voters and ensuring that every Georgian has equal access to fair and transparent elections. The appeal to the US Supreme Court represents a crucial step in holding the Georgia PSC accountable for its actions and upholding the principles of democracy. 

The plaintiffs’ appeal comes weeks after the Georgia Secretary of State announced the cancellation of three Public Service Commission elections due to take place this year, citing the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals’ hold on its mandate. The appeal also comes just after Georgia Governor, Brian Kemp, signed House Bill 1312 into law. The bill effectively extends the terms of some of the commissioners, staggers the election dates so that all three cannot occur at the same time, and sets 2025 as the first possible election date for a commissioner since the 2020 election cycle. The bill, in combination with the 11th circuit hold on its mandate, is a direct affront to the democratic process and undermines the fundamental rights of Georgia’s voters, particularly those from marginalized communities. By extending the terms of sitting commissioners without proper electoral oversight, HB 1312 creates an unfair advantage for incumbents and perpetuates a system that disenfranchises minority voters.

Wanda Mosely, Deputy Director of Black Voters Matter and another plaintiff in the case, released the following statement:

“The Georgia Public Service Commission elections violated the Voting Rights Act and placed an unfair burden on Black and marginalized communities. Because of this Georgians have not voted for a PSC seat since 2020 and we are in desperate need of fair representation, especially in light of the passage of HB 1312. The original bill supported more charging stations for electric vehicles, but was rewritten to remove the EV charging stations support, proving once again that the state legislature does not prioritize any policy efforts to protect the planet by supporting electric vehicles that produce zero carbon emissions.” 

Read more about the ongoing fight for transparency from the PSC: 

Georgia Recorder: State PSC members could avoid voters for years as meter runs on Georgia Power rate hikes

  • Brionté McCorkle, executive director of Georgia Conservation Voters, is one of the four individual plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the state contends that conducting statewide elections for the five-member PSC disenfranchises Black voters. They are petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to review the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling in November that would allow the state to continue holding at-large statewide elections for the five districts.

Capital B: Voting Rights Decision May Curb Push to Diversify Georgia, Alabama Utility Commissions 

  • In the third state in the 11th Circuit, Florida, regulators are appointed by the governor after vetting by a legislative committee. Indeed, most states appoint their regulators in some form. Georgia is one of just 10 states where commissioners are elected and one of six where they are elected at large. 
  • The state is unique in that it is the only one where commissioners must live in a district, even though they don’t represent that area because voters choose them in statewide elections. “The districts don’t exist in other states,” McCorkle said. “If that district structure didn’t exist, I feel like we’d probably have less of a claim.”
  • McCorkle and the others argued that Georgia’s unique PSC election structure is the chief reason why in a state with the second-largest Black population in the United States, only two commissioners have been Black — and both were appointed to fill vacancies, not elected. 


PSC Votings Rights Timeline:

  • In July 2020, attorneys for plaintiffs Richard Rose, James Woodall, Wanda Mosley, and Brionté McCorkle filed a complaint in the United States District Court in the Northern District of Georgia Atlanta Division alleging that the Secretary of State administers Public Service Commission elections using an at-large election method, which violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The lawsuit sought to change the method of electing PSC commissioners because it dilutes the voting power of Black voters. The case so far is the only case EVER to challenge the at-large election method on a statewide race.
  • On August 5th, 2022, a federal judge ruled that statewide elections for the Georgia Public Service Commission discriminate against Black voters. • This is a historic voting rights ruling: There have only ever been two Black Public Service Commissioners in the PSC’s 143-year history, despite the fact that 30% of residents in Georgia are Black. In 1999, Governor Roy Barnes appointed the first, David Burgess. In 2021, Governor Brian Kemp appointed the second, Fitz Johnson. The ruling signaled an end to decades of racism and finally gave Black voters the opportunity to elect Public Service Commissioners in their own districts who will prioritize clean energy, equitable power bills, and environmental justice. The ruling blocked the elections for PSC Districts 2 and 3 that were going to be held in November 2022. The General Assembly was ordered to redesign the election, and could no longer use the at-large method. The next election would have been scheduled after the state’s remedy was approved by the court. 
  • On August 8, 2022, the State of Georgia appealed this ruling to the District 11 Court of Appeals, and on August 12th this Court granted Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s request for the PSC elections to happen despite the previous ruling saying the elections violate the Voting Rights Act.
  • On August 16, 2022, the plaintiffs asked the United States Supreme Court to weigh in on the 11th circuit’s appeals court decision. On August 19th, SCOTUS ruled against the 11th circuit’s appeals court decision, once again preventing the Secretary of State from moving forward with PSC elections in November.
  • On December 15, 2022, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments for the state’s appeal.
  • On November 24, 2023, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Georgia can keep statewide elections for the PSC, overturning the lower court judge who found statewide elections illegally diluted Black votes. Their rationale was that Congress does not have the authority to tell the state how to conduct the PSC election.
  • In December 2023, plaintiffs filed a motion to stay the 11th Circuit’s mandate (which is for the PSC races to proceed statewide). The 11th Circuit quickly ruled against the motion. However, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals put the mandate on hold at the request of one of its judges. The hold *may* be due to a dissent but that’s not the only possible reason. It is a possibility that the court could be writing an entirely new opinion. There is no clear external deadline by which the court needs to announce next steps. This is preventing the Secretary of State from moving forward with scheduling PSC elections. Once the uncertainty from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals clears, the Secretary of State will be able to move forward with scheduling a special election for Districts 2 and 3 that were postponed in November, and a regular election for District 5.
  • On March 6, 2024, the Georgia Secretary of State cancels PSC elections.
  • On April 1, 2024, HB 1312 passes.
  • On April 16, 2024, Georgia Power’s IRP proposal gets approved by the commission, adding more gas.