ST. LOUIS, Missouri – A federal appeals court ruling on Monday has limited the ability of citizens and groups to sue under a key part of the Voting Rights Act, effectively weakening the law in seven states. The decision, which impacts Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota, states that only the U.S. attorney general can bring a suit under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. This ruling could significantly impact the ability of private citizens and civil rights groups to challenge discriminatory voting practices in these states.
The vast majority of Voting Rights Act claims are brought forth by citizens and civil rights groups, who often endure lengthy and costly litigation to protect voting rights. With the Department of Justice handling only a small fraction of the cases nationwide due to limited resources, the ruling effectively limits the ability to challenge discriminatory voting practices in the affected states.
Legal experts believe that the ruling is likely to be challenged all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. If allowed to stand, it would significantly weaken the Voting Rights Act, a crucial piece of legislation to protect voting rights and prevent discriminatory practices.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit’s ruling stemmed from a case involving the Arkansas State Conference NAACP and the Arkansas Public Policy Panel, who sought to challenge redistricting maps in Arkansas. The groups aimed to challenge the redrawing of 11 majority-Black districts in the state’s 100-seat House of Representatives by the Republican-controlled Legislature. This decision affects not only the Arkansas groups, but also recent wins for Native American voters in North Dakota, where a federal judge found that lawmakers had diluted two Native American tribes’ voting rights.
Legal experts predict that the ruling will be overturned on appeal, but at present, it stands as the law in the seven affected states. The decision will have significant implications for voting rights and the ability to challenge discriminatory practices in these states.
In summary, the federal court’s ruling limits citizens and groups from suing under a key section of the Voting Rights Act, significantly impacting the ability to challenge discriminatory voting practices in seven states. The decision has implications for both Black and Native American voters and is likely to face further legal challenges in the future.