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Arizona's Voting Restrictions Are Upheld By The Supreme Court

Arizona's Voting Restrictions Are Upheld By The Supreme Court

On Thursday, the Supreme Court dealt another blow to the Voting Rights Act by ruling in favor of Republicans, allowing Arizona to maintain restrictions that critics claim discriminate against nonwhite voters.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote the ruling, which was approved by a 6-3 vote, with Justice Elena Kagan writing a dissent.

The ruling could have far-reaching consequences, opening the door to similar restrictions in other states by stating that they are permissible under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. However, the ruling stopped short of completely gutting Section 2.

Brnovich v. DNC was decided just over eight years after Chief Justice John Roberts authored a ruling that gutted another key provision of the seminal 1965 law, which was passed in the aftermath of violence against Black Americans protesting for the right to vote.

The Supreme Court's 2013 decision paved the way for states, recently motivated by former President Donald Trump's repeatedly-disproven lies about the 2020 election, to enact voting restrictions that could limit access to the polls. As of May, Republican-controlled legislatures had passed more than 20 voting restriction bills in 14 states, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, with another two states considering similar legislation.

The case, which has been consolidated with Arizona Republican Party v. Democratic National Committee, focuses on two voting restrictions in the state that the Ninth Circuit found to be discriminatory toward people of color in the state.

The first is Arizona's policy of discarding ballots cast outside of a person's precinct, which results in full ballots being thrown out even if they include statewide or national races in which the individual is eligible to vote. The second is Arizona's prohibition on collecting and delivering ballots for others, known as ballot-harvesting, with an exception for family, caregivers, mail carriers, and voters.

The Democratic National Committee filed a lawsuit against the state in 2016 to stop the policies, claiming they violated the “results test” added to Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act in 1982, which prohibits any voting restrictions that result in racial discrimination.

Both policies disproportionately affect nonwhite voters, challengers argued. The Ninth Circuit found that black, Hispanic, and Native American voters in Arizona were more likely than white voters to vote outside their assigned precinct, and that many people of color, particularly Native Americans, live outside of regular mail service, making ballot delivery efforts more beneficial to them.

The racial disparity in burdens allegedly caused by the out-of-precinct policy is small in absolute terms, according to Alito's ruling.

It also stated that the ballot collection ban was consistent with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act because voters have other options for casting ballots, and that Arizona was justified in enacting the rule to preserve the integrity of election results, according to Alito.

′′[A] state may act to prevent election fraud without waiting for it to occur within its own borders,” Alito wrote.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) and lawyers for the Arizona Republican Party defended both policies, arguing that the Ninth Circuit had incorrectly applied Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act to prevent them from being implemented.

Brnovich is currently running for the Republican nomination for the United States Senate.

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