In a ruling handed down in November, the federal Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals gutted a key section of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), making it harder to enforce the 1965 law. In a 2-1 decision, the court upheld a lower court decision preventing private citizens and organizations from using Section 2 of the VRA to sue against racial discrimination in voting rights.
The ruling contends that only the U.S. Attorney General can bring legal challenges. But, according to The Washington Post, “in the past 40 years, at least 182 successful Section 2 cases have been filed and, of those, only 15 ‘were brought solely’ by the attorney general.”
The ruling is expected to be appealed to the Supreme Court, but that same body already weakened the VRA a decade ago.
According to Rev. Dr. Stephany Rose Spaulding, only massive voter turnout in the 2024 general election can overcome predictable attacks on voting rights. Rev. Spaulding is an activist, pastor, professor, and founder of Truth and Conciliation, and a member of Just Democracy. She spoke with YES! Racial Justice Editor Sonali Kolhatkar on YES Presents: Rising Up With Sonali about the state of the VRA.
Sonali Kolhatkar joined YES! in summer 2021, building on a long and decorated career in broadcast and print journalism. She is an award-winning multimedia journalist, and host and creator of YES! Presents: Rising Up with Sonali, a nationally syndicated television and radio program airing on Free Speech TV and dozens of independent and community radio stations. She is also Senior Correspondent with the Independent Media Institute’s Economy for All project where she writes a weekly column. She is the author of Rising Up: The Power of Narrative in Pursuing Racial Justice (2023) and Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords, and the Propaganda of Silence (2005). Her forthcoming book is called Talking About Abolition (Seven Stories Press, 2025). Sonali is co-director of the nonprofit group, Afghan Women’s Mission which she helped to co-found in 2000. She has a Master’s in Astronomy from the University of Hawai’i, and two undergraduate degrees in Physics and Astronomy from the University of Texas at Austin. Sonali reflects on “My Journey From Astrophysicist to Radio Host” in her 2014 TEDx talk of the same name.