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Appeals court's major blow to Voting Rights Act tees up likely high court fight


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The Washington Examiner

Kaelan Deese, Supreme Court Reporter
November 20, 2023

A federal appeals court struck a major blow to the Voting Rights Act on Monday, finding that black voters alone cannot challenge maps under the 1965 law, teeing up a likely Supreme Court dispute.

The decision was made by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, which ruled 2-1 that black and minority groups alone cannot bring racial gerrymandering suits under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Instead, such lawsuits filed under that provision must come from the Justice Department, the appeals court ruled.

“The who-gets-to-sue question is the centerpiece of today’s case,” Judge David R. Stras wrote in the majority opinion. “The Voting Rights Act lists only one plaintiff who can enforce § 2: the Attorney General.”

The 8th Circuit's decision upholds a lower court ruling that there is no "private right of action" under Section 2 of the powerful civil rights law, first passed in 1965. The decision dismissed a case brought by black Arkansas voters whom lower courts ruled had a strong claim that the state's congressional map unreasonably discriminated against nonwhite voters.

Stras's decision means that going forward, only Biden administration Attorney General Merrick Garland can bring a claim based on the anti-discrimination tools provided under Section 2 in the following states, which are under the 8th Circuit's jurisdiction: Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota.


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