One Big Thing: Do You Support the Supreme Court’s Decision on Arizona’s Voting Laws?
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The Supreme Court voted 6-3 in favor of two Arizona voting laws on July 1. This decision reversed an earlier ruling made by a lower court that struck down the laws on the basis of discrimination.
One of the laws in question prohibits ballot collection, or helping a voter return their signed and sealed ballot. This practice was popular among civic groups that sought to encourage Latinx participation, and for groups that worked with Native American voters in rural areas who lacked easy access to postal service.
The second law invalidates ballots cast at the wrong precinct. Due to frequent changes in polling locations and high moving rates, mistakenly casting an out-of-precinct ballot is not all that rare in Arizona, and affected minority voters at twice the rate as Caucasian voters.
The Arizona Democratic Party, the DNC, and other groups challenged these two laws in April 2016, claiming that these restrictions have “a disparate effect on Hispanic, Native-American, and African-American voters in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.”
Section 2 “prohibits voting practices or procedures that discriminate on the basis of race, color, or membership in one of the language minority groups identified in Section 4(f)(2) of the Act.”
In January 2020, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals voted to strike down both laws, citing “racial discrimination” and “disproportionately undercounting minority votes” as factors.
Writing for the majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito argued that "the mere fact that there is some disparity in impact does not necessarily mean that a system is not equally open or that it does not give everyone an equal opportunity to vote." The majority opinion cited concerns about voter fraud as legitimate reasons to pass voting restrictions.
However, Justice Elena Kagan called the decision “tragic” and wrote in the dissent: “Throughout American history, election officials have asserted anti-fraud interests in using voter suppression laws. Poll taxes, the classic mechanism to keep black people from voting, were often justified as ‘preserv[ing] the purity of the ballot box [and] facilitat[ing] honest elections.’”
President Biden said he was "deeply disappointed in today's decision by the United States Supreme Court that undercuts the Voting Rights Act."
The U.S. Justice Department responded to the decision with a statement that said: “The department remains strongly committed to challenging discriminatory election laws and will continue to use every legal tool available to protect all qualified Americans seeking to participate in the electoral process. The department urges Congress to enact additional legislation to provide more effective protection for every American's right to vote.”
Read the full court case HERE
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