Supreme Court Could Intervene And Overhaul Voting Rights Litigation

By Robert Cunningham, updated on November 23, 2023

A decision by the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals may reshape the future of litigation under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, as private individuals and groups can no longer file lawsuits alleging violations, according to the court.

This ruling came to light in a case involving an Arkansas NAACP chapter. They had alleged that redistricting maps discriminated against Black voters.

Now, the court has determined that the NAACP, or any other private entity, would need to convince the Justice Department to take up their case.

Legal Experts Predict the Supreme Court's Involvement

Experts in the field of law anticipate that this ruling will not go uncontested. An appeal to the Supreme Court is likely on the horizon.

Among those forecasting a Supreme Court review is Jason Torchinsky, a partner at Holzman Vogel and a recognized expert in election law. Torchinsky told Fox News Digital, "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."

At this point, the ruling only impacts the states under the Eighth Circuit's jurisdiction. However, the potential Supreme Court review could have nationwide implications.

Controversy and Concerns Over the Ruling

Several pending redistricting lawsuits filed by private groups are in limbo due to this decision, Fox News reported.

Moreover, legal scholars have raised questions about the interpretation of the law. Some argue that when Congress penned the law back in the 1960s, they likely presumed a private right of action.

The ruling has not gone without criticism. Civil rights groups have voiced their concerns, stating that this decision could potentially hamper individuals who have experienced discrimination from taking legal action themselves.

Legal Defense Fund said, "[i]ndividuals who experience voting discrimination on account of their race will be prevented from suing under the Voting Rights Act (VRA)’s critical Section 2 provisions to vindicate them and must instead rely on the discretion and limited resources of the U.S. Attorney General."

Awaiting the Supreme Court's Decision

The timeline of these events has been a whirlwind. It started on November 21, 2022, when the Eighth Circuit made its groundbreaking ruling. This was preceded by Justice Gorsuch flagging the issue in 2021, noting that the Court has not settled this matter.

Interestingly, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Black voters in an Alabama redistricting case in 2022. As we look ahead, a potential appeal to the Supreme Court could see the case decided in the upcoming election year.

The ruling from the Eighth Circuit has been stated quite bluntly: "Did Congress give private plaintiffs the ability to sue under [Section 2] of the Voting Rights Act? Text and structure reveal that the answer is no, so we affirm the district court’s decision to dismiss."

Conclusion

  • The Eighth Circuit has ruled that Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act does not grant a private right of action.
  • An Arkansas NAACP chapter's case against discriminatory redistricting maps prompted this ruling.
  • Legal experts predict an eventual Supreme Court decision on this matter.
  • The ruling has sparked controversy and criticism, particularly from civil rights groups.
  • The potential impact of this ruling on pending redistricting lawsuits is considerable.
  • The Supreme Court's decision on this issue, if it comes to that, could fundamentally change the landscape of Voting Rights litigation.

About Robert Cunningham

With years of experience at the forefront of political commentary, Robert Cunningham brings a blend of sharp wit and deep insight to his analysis of American principles at the Capitalism Institute.

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