US Voting Suits Hinge on High Court Case, Ex-DOJ Official Says


Publish Date:
October 3, 2022
Bloomberg Law
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A former top official overseeing the Justice Department’s voting section defended its wait-and-see approach to pursuing litigation as the Supreme Court takes up an Alabama redistricting case that could further erode Voting Rights Act protections.

“I do not think the section is overly cautious,” said Pamela Karlan, who departed in July as Civil Rights Division principal deputy supervising the voting section in the Biden administration. “The federal judiciary is hostile in some ways to an expansive reading of the Voting Rights Act, and we do ourselves no favors by filing lawsuits that ultimately will lead to the constriction of the tools we have for fighting vote dilution.”

Future DOJ voting litigation “in the next couple of years will depend in substantial part on what the Supreme Court says in the Milligan case,” said Karlan, who also had a stint leading DOJ voting rights enforcement in the Obama administration.

“In the same way that Gingles gave a roadmap and told you what you needed to do to win a voting rights case,” Karlan said of the 1986 Supreme Court test for vote dilution claims, “Milligan is going to alter that roadmap in some ways.”

“Once we see the new roadmap, that will tell the voting section which cases are plausible to bring, and which ones are not,” added Karlan, a Supreme Court litigator who’s now back at Stanford law.

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