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Attorney General Josh Stein Defends Voting Rights Act

For Immediate Release:
Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Nazneen Ahmed (919) 716-0060

(RALEIGH) Attorney General Josh Stein joined a group of 19 attorneys general defending Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act—a key protection against racial discrimination in elections—from radical challenges raised in a Georgia redistricting lawsuit.

In an amicus brief filed in Pendergrass v. Secretary of State of Georgia and two other consolidated cases, the attorneys general argue that the appeals court should uphold decades of legal precedent protecting the voting power of minority communities and reject an attempt to block voters from filing lawsuits to challenge discriminatory election practices.

“Americans rely on the Voting Rights Act to protect their political power and fight back against voter discrimination,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “I am fighting to uphold this critical law, and I’ll do everything in my power to defend people’s voting rights.”

Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act bans any election practice or procedure that “results in a denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color” or membership in a minority-language group. It also prohibits election laws or structures that create unequal opportunities for political participation and prevents states from creating legislative districts that dilute minority voting power.

After the 2020 census, states across the US redrew electoral maps. In 2021 and 2022, voting rights organizations and multiple individual voters challenged Georgia’s new congressional and state legislative district maps, alleging that the maps unlawfully diluted the political power of the state’s Black voters. The District Court ruled in favor of the voters and voting rights organizations and ordered Georgia to redraw its maps to include additional majority-Black districts. The Georgia Secretary of State appealed this decision, arguing in part that Section 2 is unconstitutional to the extent that it requires Georgia to draw race-conscious maps, and that individual voters and private organizations do not have a private right of action to enforce it—meaning that they cannot sue to challenge racially discriminatory election practices.

The attorneys general argue that Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act is constitutional. They also argue that the text of Section 2 and decades of legal precedent have clearly established that individual voters have the power to challenge racially discriminatory election practices under Section 2. Private citizens have sued to enforce Section 2 since it was enacted, and every court except for one has ruled that they have this power. Section 2 is the nation’s primary tool to combat racially discriminatory election practices, and the attorneys general recognize the important place these private lawsuits play in fighting for equal voting rights.

A copy of the brief is available here.

Attorney General Stein is joined in filing this brief by the Attorneys General of New York, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.