ACLU Won’t Ask US Supreme Court to Review Voting Rights Act Ruling

The appeals court found that only the U.S. attorney general can enforce a policy requiring districts that ensure minority representation.
ACLU Won’t Ask US Supreme Court to Review Voting Rights Act Ruling
A voter prepares a ballot at a polling station. (Robyn Beck/AFP file photo via Getty Images)
Jack Phillips

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other groups in Arkansas will not ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review a lower court ruling that private groups can’t sue under a key section of the federal Voting Rights Act.

The groups allowed a filing deadline to expire at the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this month.

The ACLU’s Arkansas branch, which helped in a challenge against Arkansas’s new state House districts, confirmed to The Epoch Times on July 8 that it did not petition the U.S. high court by the deadline to review the 2023 ruling by the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

A 2–1 panel on the appeals court found that only the U.S. attorney general can enforce Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and that outside groups can’t file lawsuits using that section of the law.

The Arkansas Public Policy Panel and the Arkansas State Conference NAACP, which also challenged Arkansas’s new state House districts under the law, did not file a petition by the deadline.

Section 2 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act requires political maps to include districts where minority populations’ preferred candidates can win elections. Lawsuits have long been brought under the section to try to ensure that black and minority voters have adequate political representation.

An ACLU spokesperson said that the Eighth Circuit’s ruling was “wrong” and “contrary to 60 years of precedent in which federal courts, including the Supreme Court, have issued hundreds of decisions granting private plaintiffs relief under Section 2.”

There is “an alternative mechanism for private plaintiffs to vindicate their rights” by filing lawsuits under another section of Section 2, the spokesperson said, adding that the group is considering other avenues for challenging the Arkansas redistricting plan.

The ACLU and other groups, including the Arkansas State Conference NAACP and the Arkansas Public Policy Panel, argued in their prior lawsuit that the plan deprives black people and other minority groups of the right to elect representatives whom they want.

“While we are not seeking review of this decision, we are far from finished in our quest to guarantee Arkansans pick their candidates, and not the other way around—and that we have fair maps and representation for all Arkansans,” the ACLU stated.

The spokesperson did not elaborate on how or when the group will challenge the redistricting law.

The Eighth Circuit ruling, meanwhile, applies only to federal courts covered by the district, made up of Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota, according to the ACLU.

The groups had challenged Arkansas’s state House redistricting plan, which was approved in 2021 by the state’s Board of Apportionment. The ACLU challenged the plan later that year.

Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin described the group’s decision not to petition the Supreme Court as a “win for Arkansas“ because ”it ends that challenge.”

“For far too long special interest groups have used Section 2 to hijack redistricting decisions and dictate how states conduct elections,” Mr. Griffin said in a statement.

“The Eighth Circuit’s decision put an end to that practice in Arkansas and six other states. It confirmed that decisions about how to enforce the Voting Rights Act should be made by elected officials, not special interest groups.”

When it delivered the ruling in late 2023, the Eighth Circuit panel argued that while courts have said that Section 2 is privately enforceable, “a deeper look has revealed that this assumption rests on flimsy footing.”

“The advocacy groups argue that courts have been adjudicating [Section] 2 claims brought by private plaintiffs for years, so they must be available,” the majority wrote. “But assuming their existence, and even discussing them, is different from actually deciding that a private right of action exists.”

In 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered Alabama to redraw its congressional map after groups sued the state under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, rejecting a plea from Republicans in the state to retain their map.

The ACLU’s decision not to challenge in Arkansas also comes as the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request in late June from the state of Louisiana for a hearing with the full appeals court to determine whether individuals and outside groups can sue under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Jack Phillips is a breaking news reporter with 15 years experience who started as a local New York City reporter. Having joined The Epoch Times' news team in 2009, Jack was born and raised near Modesto in California's Central Valley. Follow him on X: