The Supreme Court upheld two Republican-backed voting restrictions in Arizona, rejecting claims they discriminate against minority voters.
The 6-to-3 decision overturned a lower court decision to uphold Arizona’s policy of invalidating ballots cast in the wrong precinct and a law criminalizing the collection of mail ballots by third party community groups or campaigns.
Arizona Democrats argued data shows both restrictions disproportionately hurt Latino and Native American voters in the state and violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act which prohibits any action resulting “in the denial or abridgment of the right to vote of any citizen on account of race.”
Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the opinion for the six conservatives said section 2 requires openness to voting, but not equal outcomes.
“It appears that the core of [Section 2] is the requirement that voting be ‘equally open.’ The statute’s reference to equal ‘opportunity’ may stretch that concept to some degree to include consideration of a person’s ability to use the means that are equally open. But equal openness remains the touchstone,” Alito wrote according to CBS News. “Mere inconvenience cannot be enough to demonstrate a violation of [Section 2].”
Justice Elena Kagan wrote in the dissent the majority committed violence to the Voting Rights Act.
“Wherever it can, the majority gives a cramped reading to broad language,” Kagan wrote. “And then it uses that reading to uphold two election laws from Arizona that discriminate against minority voters.”
The decision hands a victory to Republicans who are pushing voting restriction bills forward at lightning speed in order to suppress Black and BIPOC voters. The For The People Act is still being pushed by some Democrats, but unless the moderate side of the party including Sen. Joe Manchin (W.V.) change their minds and agree to eliminate the filibuster, it’s virtually impossible.
Some Democrats are hoping they can pass the narrower the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, but that is also considered a long shot.
The decision is also sure to affect the Justice Department’s eeeeeeeeeeee against the state of Georgia for its voting restrictions bill. Although the department appeared to anticipate Thursday’s ruling according to the New York Times, the decision also addressed discriminatory intent.
“The court today also makes it harder to prove intentional racial discrimination in passing a voting rule, making it that much harder for D.O.J. to win in its suit against the new Georgia voting law,” Richard Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, wrote.
The Hispanic National Bar Association released a statement on the ruling ruling Congress and Biden to take action.
“In recent years, we have seen a growing trend of state-led initiatives focused on restrictive voting laws that disproportionately affect Hispanic voters and other voters of color,” HNBA President Diaz-Yaeger said in a statement. “The Supreme Court’s ruling today further weakens our federal court system’s ability to shield voters of color from such discrimination.
“We must not turn back the clock on voter access. Our democracy is only successful if every voter has full and equal access to cast their ballot. We urge President Biden and Congress to take bipartisan actions to strengthen our existing voting rights laws, and to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the For the People Act so that every American is protected from racial discrimination and voter suppression.”