Federal court deals devastating blow to Voting Rights Act

Federal court deals devastating blow to Voting Rights Act

Politico reports:

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.

The appellate court ruled that there is no “private right of action” for Section 2 of the law — which prohibits voting practices that discriminate on the basis of race.

That, in practice, would severely limit the scope of the protections of Section 2. On paper, those protections are themselves unchanged by the ruling. But for decades, private parties — including civil rights groups, individual voters and political parties — have brought Section 2 challenges on everything from redistricting to voter ID requirements.

“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. [Continue reading…]

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