From Poll Tests to the Purcell Doctrine:  Merrill v. Milligan and the Precarious Preservation of Voting Rights

May 1, 2024

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (“the Voting Rights Act”) is one of the primary vehicles by which plaintiffs receive injunctive relief ahead of elections.  More specifically, § 2 of the Voting Rights Act allows plaintiffs to challenge gerrymandered maps before they are used in contentious elections.  However, Justice Kavanaugh’s reframing of the Purcell doctrine in Merrill v. Milligan weakened § 2’s ability to interrupt the use of these maps.  This Note discusses how Justice Kavanaugh’s interpretation of the Purcell doctrine recenters the doctrine on bureaucratic inconvenience rather than voter enfranchisement, restricting voters’ access to relief prior to elections.  Furthermore, this Note addresses how this restructuring is inconsistent with the intent of the Voting Rights Act and the Purcell doctrine.  As a solution, this Note proposes a narrow interpretation of the Purcell doctrine focusing on voter enfranchisement through a strict application of the Gingles factors and a narrow timeline for redistricting.

May 2024

No. 6