MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The Democratic National Committee asked a federal appeals court on Thursday to dismiss a case centered on Alabama party infighting that could test the requirements of the Voting Rights Act.
The DNC argued that the lawsuit, which challenged 2019 bylaws establishing new diversity caucuses, is now moot since the state party is no longer operating under those bylaws.
Longtime party official Randy Kelley, who lost his position as vice-chair during the 2019 power struggle, sued the DNC in 2021.
Kelly asked a federal judge to declare that the 2019 bylaws violated the Voting Rights Act and a decades-old consent decree meant to ensure Black people are proportionately represented on the party’s executive committee.
A judge dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that the state party could not be sued under the Voting Rights Act. But Kelley, who was elected party chairperson last year, appealed to the 11th Circuit.
The lawsuit contends that the new bylaws, which added diversity caucuses for youths, disabled people, and LGBTQ+ and other Democratic voters, diluted the influence of Black committee members.
In the motion to dismiss the appeal, the DNC argued that Kelley’s complaint is no longer relevant because the party enacted new bylaws in May that abolished some of the caucuses.
However, the DNC said it is reviewing a complaint against the new 2023 bylaws.
“To be sure, Alabama voters have raised concerns about whether the May 2023 Bylaws were properly enacted under the procedural rules of the SDECA (the state party) and whether the May 2023 Bylaws discriminate against certain minority groups in violation of Democratic Party rules,” lawyers for the DNC wrote.
The case comes before the 11th Circuit after courts have recently weighed or dismantled some requirements of the landmark Voting Rights Act.
The 11th Circuit in April upheld a Florida election law — tightening rules on mailed ballots, drop boxes and other popular election methods — that a lower court had ruled was aimed at suppressing Black voters.
The long-running struggle for control inside Alabama’s Democratic Party has pitted old-guard powerbrokers against a coalition unhappy with the party’s leadership and performance in the state. Republicans currently hold all statewide offices.
The Democratic National Committee in 2019 directed the Alabama Democratic Party to update its bylaws to include diverse voices in party affairs. That led to creating new diversity caucuses. At its May meeting, the state party abolished some of those caucuses, with proponents arguing they were unneeded.
Forty Alabama Democrats filed a complaint concerning the May meeting and bylaws adopted during it, indicating they wanted the DNC to review the issue.