From today’s CNN News:
A federal appeals court on Monday ruled against a key tool used to enforce the Voting Rights Act – likely setting up another Supreme Court showdown over one of the nation’s landmark civil rights laws.
In a ruling that springs from an Arkansas redistricting case, the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that private entities cannot bring lawsuits under a provision of the law, known as Section 2. If it stands, the decision would dramatically weaken what remains of the Voting Rights Act, passed in 1965 to counter racial discrimination in elections.
In a 2-1 decision, the judges said the “text and structure” of the voting rights statute shows that Congress did not give private plaintiffs the authority to sue. The appellate panel affirmed a 2022 ruling by a Trump-appointed federal judge in Arkansas that held only the US Justice Department can bring Section 2 lawsuits.
That ruling runs counter to decades of legal practice, however.
The vast majority of cases brought under the Voting Rights Act – which prohibits election rules that have the intent or effect of discriminating on the basis of race – are brought by private plaintiffs, with the Justice Department facing strained resources and other considerations that limit the number of such cases it files to, at most, a few each year.
“Eliminating individual people’s right to sue under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act runs contrary to settled law, common sense and any basic concept of fairness: when the government discriminates against people, they should have a right to fight back in court,” Paul Smith, senior vice president of the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, said in a statement.
The center had submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, arguing that private lawsuits are critical to enforcing the Voting Rights Act.
The US Justice Department’s voting section – which enforces federal voting laws – simply does have not enough lawyers “to be everywhere in the nation at once,” said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation & Research. He worked as an attorney in the DOJ’s voting section during the Clinton and Bush administrations.
Read the complete story here.