Court ruling on Black voters’ right to sue under Voting Rights Act is ‘unconscionable’
Members of Congress and civil rights activists are condemning a federal appeals court ruling that threatens the enforcement of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
On Monday, a three-judge panel for the St. Louis-based Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit ruled that private citizens, those not affiliated with the federal government, are prohibited from bringing a lawsuit under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
Jonathan Miller, chief program officer at the Public Rights Project, told theGrio, “This outcome is unconscionable.”
“The Supreme Court itself has recognized the ability of private litigants to bring Section 2 claims,” he said.
Miller added that the court’s ruling is “part of a very concerted effort by extreme conservative judges and advocates to hollow out the Voting Rights Act.”
For years, private U.S. citizens and groups have brought most of the cases under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Those lawsuits include challenges to state voting laws or Congressional maps that several courts have argued violate the constitutional rights of Black voters.
In a statement obtained by theGrio, U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said, “Congress must act to protect voting rights for Black voters and voters of color.”
“The Congressional Black Caucus will not stop until we pass the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to restore the full protections of the Voting Rights Act,” said Horsford.
This comes just weeks after civil and voting rights groups filed a federal lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s new election law that they say will make casting a ballot difficult for Black voters. A similar lawsuit was filed by the Democratic National Committee and the North Carolina Democratic Party.
On Tuesday, plaintiffs Rodney D. Pierce and Moses Matthews filed a lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s senate district maps on the grounds that they violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
In response to Monday’s appellate court ruling, Miller said, “It’s not coincidental that you would see a ruling like this.”
He believes the VRA ruling is intended to keep voter suppression tactics in place and stop gerrymandering efforts from being reversed.
Earlier this year, advocates used Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act to prevent the enforcement of Alabama’s Congressional map, which the Supreme Court argued discriminated against Black voters. In September, a special master was appointed to redraw the map to ensure Black Alabamians have a second majority-Black district in time for the 2024 midterm elections.
Miller told theGrio, “I think this [ruling] is a direct response to lawyers for the NAACP, elders, the ACLU and other groups,” who were successful in having Alabama’s Congressional map redrawn, by saying “Section 2 can’t be enforceable anymore.”
He also said that the Supreme Court’s handling of certain cases “has invited courts of appeals to take these bold and reckless actions.”
Miller continued: “This [ruling] is a result of an incredibly conservative Supreme Court and incredibly conservative judges and appellate courts who are really trying to push the law as far and as quickly as they can and see what they can get away with.”
Congressman Horsford said the recent decision from the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals is “ill-advised” and “cannot stand.”
“[It] should be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which we hope will reaffirm that citizens have a private right of action to bring forward lawsuits under Section 2,” said Horsford.
Miller said he believes that this case will find its way to the U.S. Supreme Court as it is “deeply problematic.”
He added, “Something’s going to need to be done and done quickly.”
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