WASHINGTON – Today, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals substantially weakened the core affirmative enforcement provision of the Voting Rights Act, disempowering everyday citizens and non-governmental organizations like the Arkansas State Conference NAACP–a plaintiff in the underlying lawsuit–by removing their ability to legally challenge voting laws that harm Black voters and other voters of color. Jon Greenbaum, chief counsel of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, issued this statement following the ruling:
“Today’s decision ranks as amongst the worst I have seen in my career in terms of its reasoning and its effect if it were to become law nationally.
“The 1982 Amendment to Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act has been the single most influential factor in increasing Black representation in congress, state legislatures, county commissions, city councils, school boards and other elective offices. For the last four decades, Black voters and other voters of color have successfully brought countless cases challenging discriminatory redistricting plans, methods of election, and other practices that have resulted in voting of color having an equal opportunity to elect their candidates of choices. Section 2 has served as a check on efforts to deny Black voters the opportunity for fair representation.
“Today’s 8th Circuit panel decision, which held that a Section 2 claim cannot be brought by private parties, flies in the face of Congress’s intent to eradicate discrimination in voting rights. Every court that has addressed this issue until day has come to the opposite conclusion of the 8th Circuit panel. And less than six months ago the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Black voters on a Section 2 claim involving Alabama’s Congressional districts – a claim that could not even be brought under the 8th Circuit panel’s reasoning.
“This ruling is terribly misguided and has the potential to do real harm. It comes on the heels of the many protections of the Voting Rights Act that the courts have weakened over the past decade. Increasingly, we need for Congress to pass legislation that fully restores the promise of democracy for protections of the Voting Rights Act for Black voters and other voters of color across the country.”
About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to mobilize the nation’s leading lawyers as agents for change in the Civil Rights Movement. Today, the Lawyers’ Committee uses legal advocacy to achieve racial justice, fighting inside and outside the courts to ensure that Black people and other people of color have the voice, opportunity, and power to make the promises of our democracy real. For more information, please visit https://lawyerscommittee.org