A federal appeals court rules against key sections of the Voting Rights Act.
A federal appeals court issued a ruling Monday that could gut the Voting Rights Act, saying only the federal government — not private citizens or civil rights groups — is allowed to sue under a key section of the landmark civil rights law.
The decision out of the 8th Circuit will almost certainly be appealed and is likely headed to the Supreme Court. Should it stand, it would mark a dramatic rollback of the enforcement of the law that led to increased minority power and representation in American politics.
“After reviewing the text, history, and structure of the Voting Rights Act, the district court concluded that private parties cannot enforce Section 2,” the judges wrote. “The enforcement power belonged solely to the Attorney General of the United States.”
The majority opinion from the three-judge panel of the St. Louis-based 8th Circuit was authored by Judge David Stras — an appointee of Donald Trump — and joined by Judge Raymond Gruender, a George W. Bush appointee. Chief Judge Lavenski Smith, another Bush appointee, dissented.
“The ruling has put the Voting Rights Act in jeopardy, and is very cavalierly tossing aside critical protections that voters have very much fought and died for,” said Sophia Lin Lakin, the director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, who argued the case in front of the appellate court.
The decision originates in a racial gerrymandering case out of Arkansas, where the state chapter of the NAACP and others alleged that the state’s legislative districts violated the Voting Rights Act by diluting the voting power of Black voters. A lower-court judge, also a Trump appointee, ruled in early 2022 that he couldn’t decide the case on its merits because he found there was no private right of action — that, effectively, they had no right to bring the lawsuit. On Monday, the circuit court affirmed that finding.
The AP summarized the case as follows:
A divided federal appeals court on Monday ruled that private individuals and groups such as the NAACP do not have the ability to sue under a key section of the federal Voting Rights Act, a decision voting rights advocates say could further erode protections under the landmark 1965 law.
If the far-left fascists are upset with it, this must be a good thing.