LOS ANGELES – In a 2-1 decision, a federal court of appeals panel today ruled that private parties do not have the ability to sue under Section 2 of the federal Voting Rights Act (VRA).  The decision came in a case out of Arkansas and will apply in the eight states in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit’s decision in NAACP v. Arkansas Board of Apportionment held that only the federal government may bring challenges under Section 2 of the VRA. The ruling ignores years of precedent, and severely alters the ability of individuals and civil rights organizations to challenge discriminatory laws that undermine the fundamental right of Latinos and other minorities to vote in Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North and South Dakota.

MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) has sued Arkansas and Missouri over elections rules that disenfranchise voters with limited English proficiency or with disabilities who require assistance in casting a ballot.

Please attribute the following statement on today’s ruling to MALDEF President and General Counsel Thomas A. Saenz:

“Today’s decision by two judges of the Eighth Circuit would be ludicrous were it not so potentially damaging to voting rights in our country.  The opinion by Trump-appointed Judge David Stras is full of internal contradictions, strategic omissions, and faulty reasoning.  It can only be explained as one of the worst examples of ideological, outcome-driven decision-making ever.

“It is the kind of decision that severely undermines public confidence in the courts:  no one in the public will understand how federal courts, including the Supreme Court, have heard and decided cases brought by private parties under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) for half a century, only to now be told that such cases were never permitted.

“Even the most sophisticated lawyer will stumble over the panel majority’s reasoning that decades of Supreme Court decisions in private-plaintiff Section 2 cases, and decades of congressional acquiescence in and reliance on those decisions, are somehow overcome by a Trump-appointed district court judge who raised the issue on his own, without prompting from the parties.

“This decision will surely be short-lived, and will one day simply be cited as an example of the dangers of arrogant, ideological, and results-driven judging.”