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What to know about the state of voting rights ahead of 2024

DePaul University legal expert weighs in on threats to the Voting Rights Act, redistricting, and more

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CHICAGO — In a pair of decisions this summer that surprised some voting rights advocates, the U.S. Supreme Court went against the trend of recent decisions weakening the Voting Rights Act of 1965. As the anniversary of the landmark civil-rights legislation approaches on August 6, Manoj Mate, an associate professor with DePaul University College of Law, discusses the details and implications of these recent court rulings for the 2024 elections and the broader challenges facing voters. Mate is the faculty director of the Racial Justice Initiative, and his interdisciplinary research focuses on public law, constitutional law, election law and voting rights, and comparative constitutional law.

How did the Supreme Court rule this summer?

First in Allen v. Milligan, the court ruled that Alabama’s 2022 congressional districting plan violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by packing a large bloc of Black voters into one majority-minority district. This divided up and diluted the voting power of the remainder of Black voters among surrounding districts. As a result of the decision, Alabama must now draw a second majority-minority district.

Headshot of Manoj Mate
Manoj Mate is an associate professor with DePaul University College of Law and the faculty director of the Racial Justice Initiative.

In the second ruling for Moore v. Harper, the Supreme Court rejected the extreme version of the independent-state-legislature theory, a fringe legal theory that would have limited state courts’ powers to review electoral work of state legislatures.

The power to draw legislative maps has become central to the elections process. Why is the Moore v. Harper case so important for voting rights and democracy?

Moore is important because it preserves a pathway for challenging partisan gerrymanders through state courts. In Rucho v. Common Cause (2019), the Supreme Court held partisan gerrymandering claims are political questions that cannot be adjudicated by federal courts, but they held that state courts could still review partisan gerrymandering claims under state constitutional law. While affirming the power of state courts to review partisan gerrymanders under state constitutions, the Supreme Court in Moore v. Harper held that state court decisions would still be subject to review by federal courts.

What is the likely impact of the case going forward?

The impact of the Supreme Court’s decision is still uncertain given the lack of clarity surrounding the new standard for reviewing state court decisions. However, under the new standard, federal courts will have the power to review state supreme court decisions involving challenges to redistricting and state regulation of voting and elections involving federal elections.

These federal court decisions could have significant impacts on voting rights and federal elections as early as 2024. In applying the Moore standard, federal courts could potentially overturn state supreme court decisions invalidating partisan gerrymanders based on scrutiny of state courts’ interpretation of state constitutional provisions codifying voting rights, equality, and democratic principles. These decisions could have a significant influence on state Congressional maps, potentially affecting which party wins a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.

What is happening at the state level?

States continue to impose restrictions on voting rights through voter suppression policies. These include passing voter identification and felony disenfranchisement laws, restricting early voting and vote by mail, and reducing the number of polling places in major cities and population centers.

In addition, election denial strategies are targeting election administration, including attacks on election workers, efforts to challenge certification of elections, and the creation of ‘election fraud’ policing units. All of these present significant threats to voting rights and elections.

As faculty director of the Racial Justice Initiative, you bring together students, lawyers, researchers, policymakers and activists to collaborate on community-driven solutions to advance racial justice. Why is voting rights a priority for your work?

Policies that seek to curtail or restrict voting rights have disproportionate impacts on minority communities and their power and influence in our democracy. Protecting voting rights and preserving and expanding access to the vote is essential to advancing legislation and policy reforms in the area of racial and social justice through the political process.


Manoj Mate

Media Contact:
Mary Hansen