A case likely headed to the Supreme Court could fundamentally alter voter laws, making it much harder for leftists to put a stop to GOP proposals such as voter ID requirements, among others.
On Monday the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that only the federal government — meaning no private citizens or civil rights groups — is allowed to sue under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
“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,” according to Politico.
“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.”
Breaking: Eighth Circuit panel holds, 2-1, that private plaintiffs can’t sue under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. This will be going to SCOTUS If the Eighth Circuit doesn’t go en banc. https://t.co/5Lac8Ye4zl pic.twitter.com/m1dHmQNXuC
— Chris Geidner (@chrisgeidner) November 20, 2023
This is a big deal because Democrats and their allies have habitually used Section 2 to block completely legitimate GOP laws/proposals such as voter ID requirements.
Not surprisingly, the ruling was made by two members of a three-member panel of all conservative justices.
“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,” according to Politico.
In his dissent, Smith argued that both federal courts and the Supreme Court have in times past considered plenty of Section 2 cases, and that the court should therefore follow “existing precedent that permits a judicial remedy.”
“Rights so foundational to self-government and citizenship should not depend solely on the discretion or availability of the government’s agents for protection,” he wrote.
The left’s allies were not pleased by the overall ruling.
“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,” Sophia Lin Lakin of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project told Politico.
“It’s hard to overstate how important and detrimental this decision would be if allowed to stand,” Rick Hasen, an election law expert at UCLA Law School, reportedly wrote in a blog post Monday.
“If minority voters are going to continue to elect representatives of their choice, they are going to need private attorneys to bring those suits,” he added.
Sophia Lin Lakin, the director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, also cried foul, referring to the ruling as a “travesty for democracy.”
“This ruling is a travesty for democracy…the Eighth Circuit has put the Voting Rights Act in jeopardy, tossing aside critical protections that voters fought and died for.” – Sophia Lin Lakin, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Projecthttps://t.co/x3qyshqRA5
— ACLU of Montana (@ACLUMT) November 21, 2023
“By failing to reverse [a lower court’s] radical decision, the Eighth Circuit has put the Voting Rights Act in jeopardy, tossing aside critical protections that voters fought and died for,” she said in a statement.
And lastly, Barry Jefferson, the political action chair of the Arkansas State Conference of the NAACP, called the ruling “a devastating blow to the civil rights of every American, and the integrity of our nation’s electoral system,” according to the Associated Press.
Republicans meanwhile were thrilled.
“For far too long, courts across the country have allowed political activists to file meritless lawsuits seeking to seize control of how states conduct elections and redistricting,” Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin, a Republican, said in a statement.
“This decision confirms that enforcement of the Voting Rights Act should be handled by politically accountable officials and not by outside special interest groups,” he added.
Today, the Eighth Circuit became the first federal court of appeals to make clear that Section 2 of the #VotingRightsAct is not privately enforceable. This is a victory for our citizens and for the rule of law.
For far too long, courts across the country have allowed political… pic.twitter.com/f4oMa4IbIZ
— Attorney General Tim Griffin (@AGTimGriffin) November 20, 2023
Speaking with Fox News, several legal experts predicted the case is headed to the Supreme Court.
“Justice [Neil] Gorsuch had indicated that this is a significant issue, and the Eighth Circuit just agreed that there isn’t a private right of action. Resolution of this question is clearly headed to the Supreme Court for resolution,” Jason Torchinsky of Holzman Vogel told the network.
However, this isn’t a guaranteed outcome. According to Politico, either the appeal will be heard directly by the Supreme Court or first heard by the entire 8th Circuit (versus just a three-member panel).
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