This Tuesday the Supreme Court is set to take on an Arizona case over voting rights for the battleground state; the outcome of which could result in how the nation’s courts resolve future discrepancies over election laws in dozens of other states. The case is also going to be a real test for the Voting Rights Act, which the Supreme Court began scaling back from in 2013.
The two Arizona laws being discussed regard an election officials ability to reject ballots that are cast in the wrong precincts, and voting by mail. The voting by mail law claims that only the voter, a family member, or caregiver can collect and deliver a completed ballot via mail.
Arizona told the Supreme Court justices in the cases filing that “prohibiting unlimited third-party ballot harvesting is a commonsense means of protecting the secret ballot. This out-of-precinct rule is intended to prevent multiple voting.”
Arizona Democrats are arguing, however, that their state has a history of moving polling locations in minority neighborhoods as a means of purposefully causing mistakes with the count. Minorities are more likely to move around and not own a home in Arizona, meaning their polling locations are subject to change however often they move. The current policies make it extremely difficult to properly find and change your polling location to make your vote count; an issue that appeared a ton during the recent presidential election.
Arizona rejects 11 times more ballots than the next-highest state for ballot rejections. Minority voters are statistically more likely to need help making their ballot count in any election. A federal judge in Arizona initially refuted these claims of minority voter suppression, but the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision, so the state is now appealing to the Supreme Court.
The Voting Rights Act in the past has required states with a history of voter discrimination to get specific permission from the Justice Department before they challenge any election procedures. However, in 2013 the Supreme Court suspended that requirement after ruling that Congress failed to properly update the specifics of the Act, making it difficult to determine what states need assistance.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals claims that “state election provisions can be blocked if they disproportionately affect a racial minority’s ability to participate in the electoral process and elect candidates of their choice and if the state has a history of discriminating against voters in that minority group. We concluded that the two Arizona laws failed those legal tests.”
Arizona republicans are arguing that the test of this act should require proof that any voter law that’s challenged causes a “substantial disparity in opportunities for minority voters to participate in an election, not just an incremental burden.” Arizona Democrats, on the other hand, argue that “the law does not require proof of a substantial disparity and that there is no requirement to meet a minimum percentage of minority voters affected to successfully challenge a change in the voting rules.”
The American Civil Liberties Union argued that the test on the act “would impose a categorical approach under which laws that are relatively commonplace, or that do not make voting altogether impossible, are largely immune from liability.”
The Supreme Court is projected to issue a solid ruling over this discrepancy by the summer.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.