Supreme Court upholds restrictive Arizona voting laws
WASHINGTON (NBC News) — The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld two election laws in the 2020 battleground state of Arizona that challengers said make it harder for minorities to vote.
The case was a test for what’s left of one of the nation’s most important civil rights laws, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which the Supreme Court scaled back in 2013, NBC News reports. A remaining provision allows lawsuits claiming that voting changes would put minority voters at a disadvantage in electing candidates of their choice.
Civil rights groups were hoping the Supreme Court would use the Arizona case to strengthen their ability to challenge the dozens of post-2020 voting restrictions imposed by Republican legislatures in the wake of Former President Donald Trump’s defeat.
The 6-3 ruling Thursday, which was split between the conservative and liberal justices, said Arizona did not violate the Voting Rights Act when it passed a law in 2016 allowing only voters, their family members, or their caregivers to collect and deliver a completed ballot. The court also upheld a longstanding state policy requiring election officials to throw out ballots accidentally cast in the wrong precincts.
Lawyers for the state said they wanted to prohibit “unlimited third-party ballot harvesting,” which they called a commonsense way to protect the secret ballot. They said the out-of-precinct rule was intended to prevent fraudulent multiple voting.
Arizona Democrats said the state had a history of switching polling places more often in minority neighborhoods and locating them in places intended to cause mistakes, according to NBC News.
A federal judge in Arizona rejected the challenges, but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision, so the state appealed to the Supreme Court.
In the past, the Voting Right Act required states with a history of discrimination to get permission from a court or the Justice Department before changing election procedures, the test being whether the change would leave minority voters worse off. But in 2013 the Supreme Court suspended that preclearance requirement, ruling that Congress failed to properly update the formula for determining which states should be covered.
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