Attorney General Schwalb Leads Coalition Defending Voting Rights Act in Georgia Redistricting Case

19 AGs Push Back on Effort to Undermine Remaining Anti-Discrimination Protections for Minority Voters

WASHINGTON, DC – Attorney General Brian L. Schwalb today led a group of 19 attorneys general defending Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act—a key protection against racial discrimination in elections—against radical challenges raised in a Georgia redistricting lawsuit.

In an amicus brief filed in Pendergrass v. Secretary of State of Georgia, the coalition of attorneys general argue that the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit should uphold decades of legal precedent protecting the voting power of minority communities. The brief urges the Court to uphold the constitutionality of Section 2 and to reject an attempt to block voters from filing lawsuits to challenge discriminatory election practices.

“We are urging the Eleventh Circuit to respect decades of legal precedent that protect the right of all Americans to vote,” said Attorney General Schwalb. “Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act is a critical tool to ensure that every citizen can participate equally in our democracy, regardless of race. Section 2 is plainly constitutional, and dozens of courts—including the Supreme Court—have ruled that there is a private right of action to enforce it. The claims advanced by Georgia’s Secretary of State run roughshod over democratic protections, have no basis in law or fact, and should be soundly rejected.”

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.” 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 filed suit to challenge Georgia’s new congressional and state legislative district maps, alleging that the maps unlawfully diluted the political power of the states’ 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.

In a newly filed brief, Attorney General Schwalb and 18 attorneys general urge the Eleventh Circuit to affirm the lower court’s decision striking down Georgia’s racially gerrymandered congressional and state legislative district maps for violating Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

The attorneys general argue that Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act is constitutional, and that it is a critical tool enacted by Congress to enforce the Fifteenth Amendment, which bans states from denying or abridging citizens’ right to vote because of race. 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 importance these private lawsuits play in fighting for equal voting rights.

A copy of the brief is available here.  

Attorney General Schwalb and New York Attorney General Letitia James led the amicus brief and were joined by the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

Assistant Attorney General Sean Frazzette and Solicitor General Caroline Van Zile handled this matter for the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia.