The ruling, which will likely be appealed, could set up the next voting rights battle at the U.S. Supreme Court.
The vast majority of Voting Rights Act cases are filed by private parties.
For instance, the case that prompted the Supreme Court earlier this year to strike down Alabama's congressional map was originally filed by a coalition of civil rights groups.
In a dissent, Chief Judge Lavenski Smith, also a Bush appointee, said he would have followed existing precedent unless Congress or the Supreme Court said otherwise.
Sophia Lin Lakin, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union's voting rights project and a lawyer for the plaintiffs, in a statement called the ruling a "travesty for democracy."
Shannon Stapleton, District Judge Lee Rudofsky, Donald Trump, David Stras, Raymond Gruender, George W, Bush, Judge Lavenski Smith, Sophia Lin Lakin, Joseph Ax, David Gregorio, Mark Porter
REUTERS, Firms American Civil Liberties, ., U.S, Supreme, District, Appeals, Trump, Circuit, Republican, American Civil Liberties, Thomson
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