Federal appeals court ruling moves to weaken Voting Rights Act

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A federal appeals court moved to weaken the Voting Rights Act. It issued a ruling that would bar private citizens and civil rights groups from filing lawsuits under a key provision of the landmark civil rights law.

The ruling, made by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, found only the federal government could bring a legal challenge under Section II of the Voting Rights Act, a crucial part of the law prohibiting election or voting practices that discriminate against Americans based on race.

Stephen Montoya, Partner at Montoya, Lucero, and Pastor, joined Arizona Horizon to discuss the details of the ruling.

“For as long as the Voting Rights Act has existed, individuals have had the right to enforce the act, because it’s individuals who exercise the right to vote,” Montoya said.

The language of Section II explains the right to vote cannot be infringed upon, and that any rule contradicting this right violated the act itself, according to Montoya.

In recent years, the Supreme Court has made efforts to weaken the Voting Rights Act. However, the Eighth Circuit Ruling does not appear to be going in this same direction due to the individual’s right to enforce Section II, which is clear in the original intent of the section.

“I think the U.S. Supreme Court has thought some of these circuit courts have gone too far,” Montoya said.

As an example, Montoya brought up the recent court case involving a circuit court stating people guilty of domestic violence still have a constitutional right to a gun. The Supreme Court did not find this plausible, Montoya said.

To address the argument that the Voting Rights Act isn’t needed anymore, Montoya said the nation needs it now more than ever.

“The right to vote is fundamental. But, because the right to vote is so important, political parties and other political factions are constantly trying to undermine it. Because that right is fundamental to all other rights, it needs to be protected above all other rights,” Montoya said.

Stephen Montoya, Partner, Montoya, Lucero, and Pastor

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