A federal appeals court ruled Monday that individuals cannot sue their state governments for violations of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965 prohibits states from gerrymandering electoral districts on the basis of race, with many voters — supported by left-wing non-profit organizations — having brought suits in federal court to overturn delimitations by Republican-led states. On Monday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled that section 2 of the law creates no “private right of action” that would enable electors to sue states.
“The Voting Rights Act lists only one plaintiff who can enforce § 2: the Attorney General,” Judge David Stras, a Trump appointee, wrote for the majority, joined by Raymond Gruender, an appointee of George W. Bush.
The case, Arkansas State Conference of NAACP v. Arkansas Board of Apportionment, sought to challenge the state’s legislative map for alleged racial gerrymandering of voters in several regions in the state. The ruling affirms a district order to dismiss the plaintiffs’ complaint, but modifies it to dismissal with prejudice.
VRA-focused litigation using Section 2 has, in 2023 alone, been used to obtain judgments requiring the replacement of GOP-drafted constituency maps in Louisiana and Alabama, with other efforts ongoing in Georgia and South Carolina. The states are Republican-led states where newly-drawn constituency maps, according to the Supreme Court’s precedent in Allen v. Milligan, may lead to the creation of new black-majority congressional districts, which experts have told the Daily Caller News Foundation are tantamount to Democratic-leaning districts.
The Eighth Circuit’s decision only applies to VRA cases within its jurisdiction, which covers North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri and Arkansas.
The decision does not prevent left-wing plaintiffs from bringing lawsuits against state governments, however, with the opinion affirming that voters may have a private right of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 allowing them to sue the federal and state governments for violations of their constitutional rights, according to the opinion’s text.
The Biden administration had also filed a brief in April 2022 urging the court to permit the suit.
The plaintiffs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Arjun Singh on November 20, 2023