A federal appeals court deals a major blow to the Voting Rights Act, ruling that private plaintiffs cannot sue

WASHINGTON (AP) — A divided federal appeals court ruled Monday that private individuals and groups like the NAACP do not have standing to sue under a key section of the federal Voting Rights Act, a decision that voting rights advocates say could further erode protections. . Under the landmark 1965 law.

The 2-1 decision by a panel of the St. Louis-based 8th Circuit Court of Appeals found that only the U.S. attorney general can enforce Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits discriminatory voting practices such as racially gerrymandered districts.

Other federal laws, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, clarify when private groups can sue named people, but similar language was not found in the voting law, the majority said.

“When these details are missing, we have no right to fill in the gaps, except when ‘text and structure’ require it,” U.S. Circuit Judge David R. Stras wrote on behalf of the majority in an opinion joined by Justice Raymond W. Grunder. Stras was nominated by former President Donald Trump. and Gruender by former President George W. Bush.

The decision affirmed a lower judge’s decision to dismiss the case brought by the Arkansas NAACP State Conference and the Arkansas Public Policy Commission after giving U.S. Attorney Merrick P. Garland five days to join the lawsuit. Neither organization immediately responded to messages seeking comment on Monday.

Chief Justice Lavinsky R. Smith in a dissenting opinion noted that federal courts across the country and the U.S. Supreme Court have considered many cases brought by private plaintiffs under Section 2. Smith said the court should follow “existing precedent allowing judicial relief” unless the Supreme Court or Congress He decides differently.

“The fundamental rights of self-government and citizenship should not depend solely on the discretion or availability of government agents for protection,” wrote Smith, another George W. Bush appointee.

The ruling applies only to the federal courts covered by the Eighth Circuit, which includes Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. while, Several lawsuits are pending By private groups challenging various political maps drawn by lawmakers across the country.

A representative of the Ministry of Justice declined to comment.


Cassidy reported from Atlanta. Associated Press writer Mark Sherman in Washington contributed to this report.


AP’s coverage of race and voting receives support from the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation. Learn more about the AP Democracy Initiative here. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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