Sophia Lin Lakin of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was put in “jeopardy” after a recent ruling handed down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit.
In 2022, U.S. District Judge Lee Rudofsky determined that private citizens and civil rights groups did not have the right to file lawsuits under the Voting Rights Act. Instead, it was determined that only the U.S. Attorney General had the authority to do so.
This week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit upheld Rudofsky’s decision in a 2-1 vote, determining that the act does not explicitly call for a “private right of action.” If the decision were to stand, private citizens could no longer sue over alleged discrimination in voting policies based on race, color or language.
“But assuming their existence, and even discussing them, is different from actually deciding that a private right of action exists,” Judge David Stras stated.
Lakin, the director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, fired back at the decision, calling it a “travesty for democracy.”
“For generations, private individuals have brought cases under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act to protect their right to vote,” Lakin stated.
“By failing to reverse the district court’s radical decision, the Eighth Circuit has put the Voting Rights Act in jeopardy, tossing aside critical protections that voters fought and died for.”
The battle over the act will likely head to the U.S. Supreme Court. However, there is no time table as to when or if this case will be heard by the nation’s highest court.