On Thursday, in a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of two restrictive voting laws in Arizona that can directly impact the voting process for minorities.
In the majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that “mere inconvenience cannot be enough to demonstrate a violation.”
The justice acknowledged that voting law changes could have a different impact on different groups.
“Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act provides vital protection against discriminatory voting rules, and no one suggests that discrimination in voting has been extirpated or that the threat has been eliminated,” Alito wrote for the court. “But [the section] does not deprive the States of their authority to establish non-discriminatory voting rules.”
In a dissent, justices Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor expressed that the legislation undermines the Voting Rights Act.
“What is tragic here is that the Court has (yet again) rewritten—in order to weaken—a statute that stands as a monument to America’s greatness, and protects against its basest impulses,” Justice Kagan wrote in her dissent for the court. “What is tragic is that the Court has damaged a statute designed to bring about ‘the end of discrimination in voting.’”
The restrictive bills would require that election officials throw out ballots that are cast in the wrong precincts and require that ballots only be delivered by a member of a voter’s family or caregivers.
“This significantly dilutes the Voting Rights Act,” Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, said. “Minority groups will now have to meet a much higher standard beyond showing that a change presents a burden to voting. It puts a thumb on the scale for the states.”
President Joe Biden expressed his deep disappointment with the court’s decision.
“In a span of just eight years, the court has now done severe damage to two of the most important provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — a law that took years of struggle and strife to secure,” the President said in a statement.
“The court’s decision, harmful as it is, does not limit Congress’ ability to repair the damage done today: it puts the burden back on Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act to its intended strength.”
Arizona Democrats say that the state has a history of changing polling places in minority neighborhoods.
“They’re going to see that if we call it voter fraud, then we can do whatever discriminatory practice we want,” Chad Dunn, co-founder and legal director of the UCLA Voting Rights Project, said.
Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that prohibits racial discrimination in the voting process is under attack.
In 2013, the Supreme Court suspended a pre-clearance requirement that made states with a history of discrimination get permission from a court or the Justice Department before changing election policies.