Supreme Court Upholds Arizona Voting Restrictions

July 1, 2021 by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court ruled Thursday to uphold two provisions of Arizona’s election law that critics argued unfairly impinged on the rights of Black, Hispanic and Native Americans voters.

By a 6-3 margin, the justices held that a 2016 law that limits who can return early ballots for another person and a separate policy of discarding ballots cast in the wrong precinct do not violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

The division on the court was along strict ideological lines, with all of the conservatives in the majority, and the liberals banding together in dissent.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote the opinion for the majority, but it’s Justice Elena Kagan’s much longer dissent that made for the most interesting reading Thursday.

Kagan wrote that the majority’s ruling “undermines Section 2 and the right it provides” because of what she described as the conservative justices’ “cramped reading” or “broad language” to justify upholding the restrictions.

The justice went on to say that the Voting Rights Act “represents the best of America” but added that “if a single statute reminds us of the worst of America” it is also the Voting Rights Act.

That is “because it was — and remains — so necessary,” she wrote.

The court’s decision could make it harder to challenge the score of voting restrictions that have been adopted or have been under consideration in GOP-led states since the 2020 election.

Thursday’s ruling reversed a 9th Circuit decision that struck down the restrictions as racially discriminatory.

Both Democrats and Republicans had used ballot collection in Arizona to boost turnout during elections by going door to door and asking voters if they had completed their mail-in ballots, but Democrats have historically been more successful at it.

The practice is considered particularly useful to the state’s Native American population because polling places can be far away and mail service isn’t always reliable.

Voters who hadn’t voted were urged to do so, and the volunteers offered to take the ballots to election offices. 

Republicans who control the legislature made a crime of ballot collection, dubbed ballot harvesting, other than for family members and caregivers. 

It is estimated that 80% of the state’s voters use mail-in ballots or vote early in person.

Thursday’s decision is yet another sign that a more conservative Supreme Court is comfortable with winnowing down the scope of the Voting Rights Act.

In 2013, the court invalidated the “preclearance” provision of the Voting Rights Act, which requireed states and local governments to clear voting rule changes with the federal government if they had a history of discrimination.

Six years later, in a case that affected voting rights if not the Act directly, it held that federal courts can’t weigh in on any case involving partisan gerrymandering.

Sean Morales-Doyle, acting director of the Voting Rights and Elections Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School, said in a statement that the Supreme Court on Thursday “made it much harder to challenge discriminatory voting laws in court. 

“The justices stopped short of eviscerating the Voting Rights Act, but nevertheless did significant damage to this vital civil rights law and to the freedom to vote. Congress must act now to strengthen voting rights by passing the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act,” he added.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder said the Supreme Court’s decision “sends a clear message to voters across the country: We will not protect your sacred right to vote. 

“The laws at issue in [the case] are part of a larger, coordinated assault on our democracy being carried out in the name of ‘election security,’ that is based on the decades-long lie of widespread election fraud,” he said. 

“The impact of this activist, ideologically-driven decision will be felt in the future and far outside the borders of Arizona. These laws, and others like them, are unnecessary, and they will result in the effective disenfranchisement of countless American citizens – especially people of color,” he added.

Holder, who is now chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, went on to say, “Tellingly, this decision shows once again that this Court has little interest in protecting voting rights, and it makes the responsibility that is constitutionally supposed to be Congress’ all the more urgent. 

“We are getting by with an electoral system on life support — Congress must take immediate action to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to help mitigate the damage done in this case and in the disastrous Shelby County decision of 2013,” he said.

In The News

Health

Voting

Supreme Court

Mississippi Argues Supreme Court Should Overturn Roe v. Wade
Supreme Court
Mississippi Argues Supreme Court Should Overturn Roe v. Wade

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court should overturn its landmark 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide and let states decide whether to regulate abortion before a fetus can survive outside the womb, the office of Mississippi's Republican attorney general argued in papers filed Thursday... Read More

Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Deaf Woman’s Emotional Distress Suit
Supreme Court
Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Deaf Woman’s Emotional Distress Suit
July 6, 2021
by Tom Ramstack

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court plans to hear a case in its next term that could expand rights of discrimination victims to collect compensation for "emotional distress." A ruling that allows the compensation could widely broaden the liability for discrimination, potentially allowing anyone victimized by... Read More

Supreme Court Strikes Down Disclosure Rules for Political Donors
Supreme Court
Supreme Court Strikes Down Disclosure Rules for Political Donors
July 1, 2021
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a California law that required nonprofits to disclose lists of their biggest donors, holding the requirement burdened donors’ First Amendment rights and was not narrowly tailored to an important government interest. In a 6-3 ruling authored by... Read More

Supreme Court Upholds Arizona Voting Restrictions
Supreme Court
Supreme Court Upholds Arizona Voting Restrictions
July 1, 2021
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court ruled Thursday to uphold two provisions of Arizona’s election law that critics argued unfairly impinged on the rights of Black, Hispanic and Native Americans voters. By a 6-3 margin, the justices held that a 2016 law that limits who can return... Read More

Pipeline Company Can Use Eminent Domain to Claim State Land
Supreme Court
Pipeline Company Can Use Eminent Domain to Claim State Land
June 29, 2021
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday a company building a natural gas pipeline in New Jersey can continue to rely on eminent domain to claim state land in its path. The 5-4 ruling by the court included both liberal and conservative members of the court... Read More

Transgender Rights, Religion Among Cases Justices Could Add
Supreme Court
Transgender Rights, Religion Among Cases Justices Could Add

WASHINGTON (AP) — A closely watched voting rights dispute from Arizona is among five cases standing between the Supreme Court and its summer break. But even before the justices wrap up their work, likely later this week, they could say whether they'll add more high-profile issues... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top