Appeals Court Delivers Gut Punch to Voting Rights Act Enforcement

Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters
Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

In a destructive decision against the Voting Rights Act, a federal appeals court ruled on Monday that only the federal government can file lawsuits under the law, excluding private individuals and civil rights organizations. These groups have used the 1965 law for decades to argue that practices like the redrawing of electoral maps and voter ID requirements limit the voices of people of color. In February 2022, a Donald Trump-appointed judge decided that only the U.S. attorney general would have the power to sue, blocking civil rights groups representing Black voters from contesting an Arkansas redistricting case. According to Politico, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals said on Monday that the expectation for “private right of action” for Section 2 of the law, which bans voting policies that racially discriminate, “rests on flimsy footing.” NPR reported that the court ruled 2-1, with Chief Circuit Judge Lavenski Smith, a Bush appointee, dissenting, saying, “Rights so foundational to self-government and citizenship should not depend solely on the discretion or availability of the government’s agents for protection.” The case may be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the Voting Rights Act in a similar Alabama case earlier this year.

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