Court rules against key provision of Voting Rights Act

November 21, 2023

A federal appeals court ruled against a key aspect of the Voting Rights Act, setting up a potential future Supreme Court case.

The ruling in Arkansas upheld a lower court ruling by a circuit court siding with conservatives in the matter.

The ruling

"On Monday, that lower court ruling was upheld in a 2-1 vote by a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, whose rulings apply to Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota," NPR reported.

"For much of the last half-century, courts have assumed that [Section 2] is privately enforceable. A deeper look has revealed that this assumption rests on flimsy footing," wrote Circuit Judge David Stras.

The details

"All three judges, including Chief Judge Lavenski Smith, who dissented, were appointed by Republican presidents," USA Today reported.

"Section two of the Voting Rights Act bars voting practices or procedures that discriminate on the basis of race, color or other characteristics. Less than six months ago, the Supreme Court decided a major section two case from Alabama in favor of private groups who sued," it continued.

The past

"At issue was a case brought by the Arkansas chapter of the NAACP and the Arkansas Public Policy Panel challenging the state’s legislative districts, arguing that the map diluted the power of Arkansas’ black voters," the New York Post reported.

"In February 2022, US District Judge Lee Rudofsky, a Trump appointee, ruled that only the federal government could bring forth such cases and Monday’s split decision upholds that ruling," it noted.

The case follows other high-profile battles to force conservative states to redraw congressional maps due to allegations of racism. Alabama has been forced to redraw its map, along with ongoing battles in other states like Florida.

The attacks from the left focus on largely conservative states where a mapping change could open a minority-heavy district for a win by a Democrat.

So far, the battle in Arkansas hasn't worked but lawyers in the case hope the Supreme Court will hear the arguments in what could be a vital case on democracy in the upcoming election year.

" A free people [claim] their rights, as derived from the laws of nature."
Thomas Jefferson
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