Legislation setting a new election schedule for members of the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) cleared the General Assembly Thursday.

The state Senate voted 43-9 to hold the election for the PSC’s District 2 seat now held by Commissioner Tim Echols in May of next year in conjunction with municipal election primaries. The elections for districts 3 and 5 – seats now held by commissioners Fitz Johnson and Tricia Pridemore – would be held in 2026.

Elections for PSC districts 1 and 4 – now served by commissioners Jason Shaw and Lauren “Bubba” McDonald, would take place in 2028.

The Georgia House of Representatives followed suit later Thursday by passing the bill 93-66.

The legislation is in response to a lawsuit filed by four Black Fulton County residents arguing that electing members of the PSC statewide diluted Black voting strength in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act, making it more difficult for Black voters to elect a candidate of their choice.

The 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals overturned a lower-court decision last fall and upheld the system of statewide elections. However, an injunction the lower federal court issued remains in place.

As a result, PSC elections that were to have been held in 2022 and later this year were canceled.

“We’re in a weird position here,” Senate President Pro Tempore John Kennedy, R-Macon, said Thursday. “It’s very unusual for elections to be indefinitely stayed.”

State Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta, complained that the election schedule the bill sets would let commissioners who normally serve six-year terms before having to stand for reelection remain in office for eight years or longer.

Kennedy responded that the General Assembly is being forced to do something in response to the cancellation of two election cycles.

“This has been thrust upon us,” he said.

Dave Williams writes for Capitol Beat News Service

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