By Ella Wade
WASHINGTON D.C. – Two Arizona voting restrictions Friday were found to not be racially discriminatory nor in violation of Voting Rights Act of 1965 Section Two, following a current furthering of racially discriminatory voting restrictions. Section Two specifically prevents racial determinization within voting laws and regulations.
This is not the first time the VRA has been threatened or weakened.
In 2013, during a period of a smaller conservative majority in the Supreme Court, a split ideological vote of 5-4 allowed states to shift their voting laws without authorization from federal confirmation or approval. Chief Justice
John Roberts expressed the perspective that the “country has changed.” He continued saying that the threat to voters of color had weakened and that states wouldn’t use this new ruling to oppress or discriminate against people of color.
On July 1, a 6-3 ruling sustained statutes in Arizona that prevent all those who are not caregivers or close family members from collecting mail-in ballots. The other statute requires voters who cast ballots in the wrong precinct to have their full ballots rejected by officials.
This applies even to those who are eligible and entitled to vote within the state of Arizona. The majority opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, stated that “having to identify one’s own polling place and then travel there to vote does not exceed the ‘usual burdens of voting’.”
The court reflected some aspects of the law, but it was not deemed completely unconstitutional. This ruling shows a diversion from asserting the purpose of VRA Section two. Historically, even conservative justices have shown more support for Section two, for example, Scalia, “[section two is a] powerful … weapon with which to attack even the most subtle forms of discrimination.”
This ruling was framed loosely, allowing margins for interpretation and the potential to carry out discriminatory practices. Justice Alito refused to approve a specific test or precedent for future VRA Section Two cases, Alito did outline guideposts to be applied in future cases, stating that, “A policy that appears to work for 98 percent or more of voters to whom it applies – minority and non-minority alike – is unlikely to render a system unequally open.”
The vote split along ideological lines, with Justices Kagan, Sotomayor, and Breyer opposed.
Justice Elena Kagan wrote the dissenting opinion, stating, “If a single satire represents the best of America, it is the Voting Rights Act. It marries two great ideals: democracy and racial equality. And is dedicates our country to carrying them out… If a single statute reminds us of the worst of America, it is the Voting Rights Act. Because it was – and remains – so necessary.”
Republican politicians had a very different response, viewing the ruling as a step towards increasing the ability of states to control the manners in which they regulate the voting of their citizens.
Mark Brnovich, the Arizona attorney general, said, “Today is a win for election integrity safeguards in Arizona and across the country… Fair elections are the cornerstone of our republic, and they start with rational laws that protect both the right to vote and the accuracy of the results.”
President Biden made a statement reflecting on the dissent given by Justice Kagan, and the ruling of the Supreme Court saying, “I am deeply disappointed in today’s decision by the United States Supreme Court that undercuts the Voting Rights act, and upholds what Justice Kagan called ‘a significant race-based disparity in voting opportunities’… 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.”