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Appellate Court Strikes Down Key Remaining Portion of Voting Rights Act


Retired Snark Master
(The Guardian) Appeals court strikes blow against Voting Rights Act
A federal appeals court has issued a decision striking down a core element of the Voting Rights Act, further undermining protections for voters of color in the US, saying only the federal government – not private citizens or civil rights groups – is allowed to sue under a crucial section of the landmark civil rights law.

The 8th circuit today upheld a lower court’s ruling that says private individuals can’t bring lawsuits under the law, meaning only the federal government can sue under the Voting Rights Act’s section 2 protections for people of color. That also means that civil rights groups wouldn’t be allowed to sue either.

There appears to be a strong prospect that even the right-leaning US supreme court will not uphold this when, as is likely, it is appealed to the highest level. But as currently ruled the decision would be a massive blow to voting rights and racial equality.

The civil rights law was implemented to increase minority representation in US national leadership.

(The Guardian) The decision from the 8th circuit court of appeal, which is based in St Louis, Missouri, and was ruling on a lower court redistricting case out of Arkansas, is drawing furious reaction from defenders of a fundamental element of the Voting Rights Act.

Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is chiefly designed to prohibit voting practices or procedures that discriminate on the basis of a person’s race and is one of the law’s last remaining powerful provision after years of attacks from the right.

(The US supreme court, in a 5-4 opinion authored by chief justice John Roberts in 2013, gutted a key provision of the law that required states with a history of voting discrimination to get voting changes pre-cleared by the federal government before they went into effect.)

Most challenges under section 2 are brought by private individuals or civil rights or voting rights advocacy and campaign groups, not the US government.

When the supreme court gutted the requirement for states with a history of racial bias to pre-clear changes to their voting laws with the federal government – in its 2013 landmark ruling in Shelby county v Holder that drastically weakened the Voting Rights Act – it expected that the capacity for individuals to sue was the safety net needed.

That’s one element drawing expert ire today. Here’s the University of Texas's Steve Vladeck:

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