Democratic National Committee asks federal judges to dismiss case on Alabama party infighting

Aug 17, 2023, 11:13 AM

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The Democratic National Committee asked a federal appeals court 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 and should be dismissed because the plaintiff, Randy Kelley, is now the head of the state party and new bylaws have been enacted eliminating some of the caucuses.

Kelley sued the DNC in 2021, asking 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 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 the dispute is moot since Kelley was elected party chair last year — switching party control back to the plaintiffs who filed the lawsuit — and because new bylaws were enacted in May.

The case comes before the 11th Circuit after courts have weighed or dismantled some requirements of the landmark Voting Rights Act. The 11th Circuit in April federal 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 power struggle in Alabama pitted longtime party 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.

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Democratic National Committee asks federal judges to dismiss case on Alabama party infighting