Voting rights: gutting Article 2 would allow unchecked racial discrimination

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(Washington, DC) – A federal appeals court is expected to overturn a district judge’s ruling that black voters and other affected community members are barred from suing under Division 2 of Voting Rights Act 1965according to a amicus brief filed by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

The amicus brief filed with the United States Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit in the case Arkansas State Conference NAACP v Arkansas Dispatch Council, argues that an Arkansas district court broke with precedent when it ruled that only the United States Attorney General could bring a Section 2 action.

“This decision, if upheld, will seriously undermine the fight against racial discrimination in voting,” said Ezra Rosenbergco-director of the Voting Rights Project within the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “The district court’s decision is completely at odds with legal precedent and the express intent of Congress — a Congressional intent that was not only clear, but also bipartisan. This decision should not be allowed to stand.

As the Lawyers’ Committee noted in its brief, “In the fifty-seven years since the suffrage act was passed, hundreds of courts across the country – including the Court Supreme Court of the United States – have presided over Section 2 cases brought by private litigants. without murmuring that there was no private right of action. If the district court’s opinion of the law had been accurate, the brief continued, “certainly one of many defendants who had been sued by private plaintiffs under Section 2 over the past six decades and who had fought tooth and nail against accountability, would have at least tried to make that argument” and “[s]Certainly, at least one eminent jurist would have thought of this so-called threshold question at some point in more than half a century. The silence of this multitude of defendants and judges is overwhelming.

Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act prohibits the “denial or lessening of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote because of race or color”, is one of the most important tools used by civil rights organizations to fight racial discrimination in voting. This law carries even more significance as one of the last remaining avenues to protect the voting rights of people of color in the wake of the 2013 Supreme Court decision in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, which effectively gutted the preclearance provision of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act that prevented the implementation of retrogressive voting practices or procedures by states with a documented history of racial discrimination in voting.

The Lawyers’ Commission filed dozens of complaints under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and continues to litigate several to this day.