Appeals court sides with Arkansas federal judge on restricting Voting Rights Act lawsuits
November 20, 20231:14 pm
A federal appellate court today affirmed a judges dismissal of a lawsuit challenging Arkansass new maps for state legislative districts, a ruling that could have widespread consequences for voting rights in the U.S.
The case pits the NAACP and the Arkansas Public Policy Panel two advocacy groups, as the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals collectively refers to them against the state of Arkansass Board of Apportionment, which is made up of the governor, the attorney general and the secretary of state. The board is responsible for redrawing the lines for state Senate and House districts every ten years.
The advocacy groups contended that the 2021 apportionment maps diluted minority voters votes through a combination of packing (drawing lines that concentrate a cohesive political group into a limited number of districts) and cracking (dividing members of a cohesive political group among several districts), thus discriminating against minority voters. They sued under Section 2 of the federal Voting Rights Act, the landmark 1965 civil rights legislation meant to keep states from disenfranchising Black and other minority voters.
In February 2022, U.S. District Judge Lee Rudofsky of Little Rock dismissed the case, but he never reached the underlying merits of the case. Instead, the judge determined that private citizens cannot sue under Section 2 of the VRA. Such a case can only be brought with involvement from the federal Department of Justice, Rudofsky said, despite the fact that individuals and voting-rights groups have long sued to enforce the federal law.
The underlying District Court opinion is by Judge Rudofsky, a Tump appointee.
The appellate decision was 2-1. The dissent was by the Chief Judge, Judge Smith, appointed by G. W. Bush.
The main decision was by Judge Gruender, appointed by G. W. Bush, and Judge Stras, appointed by Trump.
On June 6, 2022, a preliminary injunction was granted blocking the congressional map for the 2022 election cycle, which the defendants immediately appealed. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted an administrative stay (meaning pause) of the district courts order, but three days later vacated the administrative stay and denied the motion to stay pending appeal.