Appeals court ruling would greatly weaken Voting Rights Act

November 20, 2023

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday issued a ruling that would greatly weaken the Voting Rights Act by effectively barring private citizens and civil rights groups from filing lawsuits under the law’s central provision.

The Appeals Court found that only the federal government can bring a challenge under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibits voting practices or procedures that discriminate on the basis of race, color, or membership in certain minority groups.

The court homed in on text in the law that does not explicitly contain language allowing for a “private right of action”—or the right of private citizens to file lawsuits under the law. Rather, the court found, the right to sue under the Voting Rights Act lies within the government alone.

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Missouri, also reaches into Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and the Dakotas.

The ruling is almost certain to end up before the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in June that Alabama must redraw its Congressional district map in order to come into compliance with the Voting Rights Act.

Several private individuals, law firms and civil rights groups were the plaintiffs in that case.

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