OPINION: This article contains commentary which may reflect the author's opinion
In 2020, the Coronavirus pandemic caused massive significant changes to voting procedures using the pandemic as a reason.
Changes were implemented suddenly, such as the early voting and mail-in voting expansions.
Now that the pandemic is over, some of those changes are still in place although they are protested, and the precedent for making changes close to an ensuing election has been established, although we are not now in any emergency.
Therefore, court battles are ensuing as to how much redistricting may be initiated this close to the November mid-term elections when this is not something that is usually done at this time.
Redistricting is usually tied to the results of the U.S. Census, which is completed every 10 years, the last being in 2020 but the pandemic is said to have affected that also.
In Georgia, election processes and redistricting are causing a back-and-forth in the courts to a degree not usually seen this close to a major election like the midterms coming up in November.
One case is gaining the notice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
The case began when a group of Black leaders sued the state, claiming the Republican-controlled General Assembly approved a redistricting plan last year that dilutes the Black vote in two of the five PSC districts.
Tim Echols, the Jackson County Republican who represents Athens on the Georgia Public Service Commission, is warning that Democrats may be able to pick up some seats due to this ongoing discourse.
Echols warned that his seat and that of fellow PSC member Fitz Johnson will not be on the November election ballot and could put them in jeopardy.
“Echols says the legislature will likely have to change the election law before the next PSC elections can be held.
Both Echols and Johnson were to have Democratic challengers in elections that will take place nine weeks from today,” local news station WGAU reported.
Echols also slammed Fulton County Superior Court Judge Melynee Leftridge for ruling that Democrat Patty Durand can be on the ballot for the November election for a seat on the GSC.
There had been questions about her residency in the District she’s running to represent, the PSC district that includes Athens. That post is held by Echols.
“Durand, who is not a plaintiff in the voting rights case, previously lived in Gwinnett County, which was in District 2. Then, before candidate qualifying earlier this year, state lawmakers passed redrawn district maps for all five PSC seats and moved Gwinnett County out of District 2,” the Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported.
“On the eve of the May primary, Raffensperger disqualified Durand from the race, arguing she had not lived in the new District 2 long enough to be eligible. But on Election Day, Leftridge allowed Durand to stay on the primary ballot,” the outlet continued.
Durand’s attorney, Bryan Sells, admitted she has not lived in the district long enough to be eligible. However, he attempted to claim Durand is a victim being targeted by Republicans.
The U.S. Supreme Court has now stepped in on the case involving a Georgia election law that is alleged by Democrats to harm black voters.
The nation’s highest court temporarily stopped the election in Georgia, reviving the ruling from a federal judge that said the state had disadvantaged black voters in violation of the Voting Rights Act.
“In an unsigned order without noted dissents, the justices wrote that an appeals court’s reason for staying the judge’s ruling — that it had come too close to the election in November — was flawed because state officials had told the judge that there was enough time to make the required adjustments.
The Supreme Court vacated the stay and returned the case to the appeals court for reconsideration,” the New York Times reported.
“The court’s order was an exception to what legal experts say is a growing trend: a near-categorical ban on late changes to state election procedures even when those changes have been ruled necessary to address illegal infringements of the right to vote.
But the exception was based on an unusual concession from state officials and therefore may not have larger implications,” the Times report added.
The case is being closely watched because the state’s Public Service Commission, among other responsibilities, sets customers’ utility rates and oversees the construction budget of projects.
Under Georgia’s system, commissioners run statewide but must live in one of five districts.
“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,” CNN reported.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger can appeal the case to the Georgia Supreme Court depending on what happens during the appeal process, Conservative Brief reports.