WASHINGTON — A divided federal appeals court on Monday ruled that private individuals and groups such as the NAACP do not have the ability to sue under a key section of the federal Voting Rights Act, a decision voting rights advocates say could further erode protections under the landmark 1965 law.
The 2-1 decision by a panel of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals based in St. Louis found that only the U.S. attorney general can enforce Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits discriminatory voting practices such as racially gerrymandered districts.
The majority said other federal laws, including the 1964 Civil Rights Act, make it clear when private groups can sue said but similar wording is not found in the voting law.
“When those details are missing, it is not our place to fill in the gaps, except when ‘text and structure’ require it,” U.S. Circuit Judge David R. Stras wrote for the majority in an opinion joined by Judge Raymond W. Gruender. Stras was nominated by former President Donald Trump and Gruender by former President George W. Bush.
The decision affirmed a lower judge’s decision to dismiss a case brought by the Arkansas State Conference NAACP and the Arkansas Public