WASHINGTON – Facts Supreme Court on Thursday backed two battleground Arizona 2020 election laws that challengers say make it harder for minorities to vote.
The case is an important test because of what remains of one of the nation’s most important civil rights laws, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which the Supreme Court narrowed down in 2013. One remaining provision allows lawsuits stated that the voting changes would put minority voters at a disadvantage in electing candidates. their choice.
The vote was 6-3, with dissent from three liberal factions of the court.
Election law experts say the court’s ruling will make it harder for minorities to challenge the voting law.
“This significantly dilutes the Voting Rights Act,” said Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine. “Minorities will now have to meet a much higher standard than showing that a change burdens voting. It puts the thumb on the scale for states.”
Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito said the law requires “equal openness” to the voting process. “An inconvenience alone may not be sufficient to prove a violation,” he wrote.
Voting law changes could have different effects on minorities and non-minorities, Alito said, but the fact that there is some disparity in impact does not necessarily mean that a system will be affected. The system is not equally open or does not give everyone an equal opportunity to vote. “
Writing dissent for herself and Judges Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, Justice Elena Kagan says the decision undermines the Voting Rights Act, which she calls “a law that is seen as a monument to American greatness and protection against its most fundamental impulses.”
President Joe Biden said in a statement that he was “deeply disappointed” by the decision.
“In a span of just eight years, the courts severely damaged two of the most important provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – a law that has lost much of its life,” he said in a statement. years of fighting and fighting to secure” argues that the ruling makes federal voting laws all the more necessary.
“The court’s decision, as harmful as it is, does not limit Congress’s ability to repair the damage already done today: it places the burden back on Congress to reinstate the Right to Quit Act. vote on its expected strength,” Biden said.
Civil rights groups hope the Supreme Court will use the Arizona case to boost their ability to challenge dozens of Voting restrictions after 2020 imposed by Republican legislatures following the defeat of Donald Trump.
Thursday’s ruling said Arizona did not violate the Voting Rights Act when it passed legislation in 2016 allowing only voters, family members or their caregivers to collect and transfer a completed ballot. . The court also upheld a longstanding state policy requiring election officials to throw ballots that were accidentally dropped in the wrong precincts.
State attorneys general said they want to ban “unlimited third-party ballot collection,” which they call an absurd way to protect secret ballots. They say the out-of-constituency rule is intended to prevent fraudulent repeated voting.
But Arizona Democrats say the state has a history of switching polling places more often in minority neighborhoods and placing them in places intended to make mistakes. And Democrats say minority voters are more likely to need help transferring their votes. In many states where ballot collecting is legal, they said, community activists offer the service to encourage voting.
A federal judge in Arizona dismissed the challenge. But the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision, so the state appealed to the Supreme Court.
Previously, the Voting Rights Act required states with a history of discrimination to obtain permission from a court or Department of Justice before changing electoral procedures, the test of which was whether the change would cause minority voters to change. number is more difficult than zero. But in 2013, the Supreme Court suspended the pre-clearance claim, ruling that Congress had failed to properly update the formula for determining which states should be covered.
Prior to 2013, states had a responsibility to demonstrate that their changes would not unlawfully affect minority voting. After the court ruling, the burden shifted to challengers suggesting that a change in electoral law would harm minority voters. However, the nation’s federal courts have disagreed on how to determine whether the amendment voting practice violates the law.
Advocates say the ruling will make it much more difficult for suffrage advocates to challenge discriminatory voting laws, particularly under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which bans discriminatory voting laws. voting policies that lead to racism.
“I think the courts have also shielded states on the grounds of alleged fraud to burden the rights,” said Sean Morales-Doyle, a voting rights expert at the Brennan Center for Justice. of voters of color and Native American voters. New York University Law School.
This is especially dangerous, Morales-Doyle said, as dozens of states have raised voting restrictions this year, inspired by Trump’s false and routine voter fraud claims.
Chad Dunn, co-founder and legal director of UCLA’s Voting Rights Project, said some Republican-controlled legislatures would see this as a license to pass voting restrictions under the guise of voting. anti voter fraud.
“They’ll see that if we call it voter fraud, we can do whatever discriminatory act we want,” he told NBC News.
Jane C. Timm contribute.