In a landmark decision this week, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled on a case that could limit the enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The ruling stems from a long-running dispute between a local Texas governmental entity and the U.S. Department of Justice. The dispute involves two Texas counties – Smith and Bosque – that had previously been under the jurisdiction of the voting rights act. Back in 2012, the Department of Justice alleged that the counties were engaging in discriminatory voting practices. After a decade-long legal dispute, the Fifth Circuit ruled in favor of the counties. The ruling means that the Department of Justice can no longer intervene in matters involving voting rights in these counties. At the heart of the dispute was a question of whether the counties had adopted effective measures to ensure that their voting systems were free of discrimination. The U.S. Justice Department had argued that the counties had failed to do so. In its ruling, the Court of Appeals wrote that the Department of Justice had failed to demonstrate that the counties had not adopted remedial measures. The Court also noted that the Department had not presented any evidence to suggest that the county’s voting system had been intentionally discriminatory. The decision could have far-reaching implications. It may narrow the scope of enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, at least in certain parts of the country. This could limit the ability of the federal government to step in and protect the rights of minority voters. It could also further disenfranchise people of color, who are the primary beneficiaries of the Voting Rights Act. On the other hand, the ruling also has the potential to be a positive step in enforcing the law. By making it more difficult for the Department of Justice to intervene, it could encourage local governments to take responsibility for ensuring that their voting systems are free of discrimination. The Smith and Bosque case will almost certainly be appealed to the Supreme Court and is likely to be heard in late December. In the meantime, the decision underscores the importance of robust protections for voting rights. It remains to be seen whether the Supreme Court will reverse the ruling, or if the Court’s decision will stand and create a lasting impact.