On Monday, a federal appeals court issued a ruling that could potentially dismantle the Voting Rights Act, stating that only the federal government – not private citizens or civil rights groups – has the authority to bring cases under a key provision of the historic civil rights law.
The decision is likely to be appealed to the Supreme Court, and whether it should stand will be a symbolic return to the legal maneuvering that led to an increase in minority representation in American politics.
The appellate court ruled that there is no “private right of action” under Section 2 of the law, which prohibits voting practices that discriminate on the basis of race.
In practice, this decision will significantly narrow the scope of protection under the law. For decades, private parties – including civil rights groups, individual voters, and political parties – have challenged everything from redistricting to voter ID requirements under the challenges posed by Section 2.