The US Supreme Court Friday vacated the stay of an injunction by the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and stated that the Eleventh Circuit improperly analyzed the case. The case, Rose et al. v. Raffensperger, pertains to an alleged violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
The plaintiffs assert that Georgia’s method of electing commissioners to the state’s Public Service Commission, which is through at-large, statewide elections, dilutes the votes of black citizens in Georgia. Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act prohibits any “standard, practice, or procedure … which results in a denial or abridgment of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color …” Plaintiffs in this case argued that statewide elections for the Public Service Commission result in commissioners taking office without the support of an individual district.
A district judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia found that “this method of election unlawfully dilutes the votes of Black citizens under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and must change” and issued an injunction for the preparation of ballots for the November 2022 election. The judge also issued an injunction for using the statewide method for Public Service Commission elections in the future.
The Eleventh Circuit stayed the injunction, asserting that the upcoming election will occur too soon for any election rules to be changed. While the Eleventh Circuit based its decision on a US Supreme Court case, Purcell v. Gonzalez, the Supreme Court found that the Eleventh Circuit “failed to analyze the motion under” the proper framework. The Court stated that the Eleventh Circuit’s reliance on Purcell “applied a version” that the respondent, Georgia’s Secretary of State, “could not fairly have advanced himself in light of his previous representations to the district court that the schedule on which the district court proceeded was sufficient to enable effectual relief as to the November elections should applicants win at trial.”
Since Raffensperger’s emergency appeal of the injunction was based on the traditional stay factors presented in Nken v. Holder, the Eleventh Circuit should have analyzed the case under that framework, not the framework of Purcell.