OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
Voting rights is one of the main topics of conversation in the United States right now, with many in the mainstream media and the Democrat Party insisting that new laws in many states are suppressing the votes of minorities.
Republicans have argued that the new laws secure the vote so that every legal vote counts as they protect from potential fraud.
And with the current Supreme Court term at a near end it has weighed in on a major voting rights case, Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, that dealt with two main issues, Yahoo News reported.
Those two issues are “does Arizona’s out-of precinct policy, which discards ballots cast outside of the voter’s designated precinct, violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA); second, does Arizona’s ballot-collection law, which forbids anyone other than the voter him- or herself from handling a completed early ballot, violates the same section of the VRA or the 15th Amendment,” Yahoo News said.
On Wednesday, in a decision of 6 – 3 , with all six conservatives siding in the majority and all three liberals dissenting, the court decided to side with Arizona and keep the provisions in place, The New York Times reported.
The decision was the court’s first consideration of how a crucial part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 applies to voting restrictions that have a disproportionate impact on members of minority groups, and it was issued as disputes over voting rights have taken center stage in American politics.
As Republican-controlled state legislatures increasingly seek to impose restrictive new voting rules, Democrats and civil rights groups have turned to the courts to argue that Republicans are trying to suppress the vote, thwart the will of the majority and deny equal access to minority voters. The decision suggested that Supreme Court would not be inclined to strike down many of the measures.
“This Court has no right to remake Section 2. Maybe some think that vote suppression is a relic of history—and so the need for a potent Section 2 has come and gone. Cf. Shelby County, 570 U. S., at 547 (“[T]hings have changed dramatically”). But Congress gets to make that call. Because it has not done so, this Court’s duty is to apply the law as it is written. The law that confronted one of this country’s most enduring wrongs; pledged to give every American, of every race, an equal chance to participate in our democracy; and now stands as the crucial tool to achieve that goal. That law, of all laws, deserves the sweep and power Congress gave it. That law, of all laws, should not be diminished by this Court, Chief Justice John Roberts said in the decision.
During oral arguments, it did appear that the court was prepared to affirm both provisions, which Democrats have insisted are forms of voter suppression.
Real Clear Politics explained the case in detail.
There are two major aspects to the Voting Rights Act of 1965: Section 2 and Section 5. We can break the laws reviewed under this statute into two rough prongs: vote dilution cases, which typically arise out of redistricting, and vote suppression cases, which arise out of changes to voter laws (for example, liberals bring photo identification law cases as vote suppression cases).
Section 5 requires certain states with a history of discrimination to ask for federal permission before they can change laws or regulations related to elections. In part because of this, the body of law surrounding vote suppression cases is not particularly well-developed; the most far-reaching laws were smothered in the crib (because every state must redistrict, we still get a fair number of dilution cases).
When the Supreme Court struck down the formula for deciding which states would be covered under Section 5, states were given wider latitude in changing their election laws. We’ve seen a proliferation of vote suppression claims in the past decade, with little Supreme Court guidance as to what the proper standard would be.
Brnovich, which involves a pair of statutory provisions that ban ballot collection and require officials to reject ballots for statewide office cast in the wrong precinct, gives the Supreme Court an opportunity to provide such clarification. Because there’s relatively little precedent in this field, it also has wide latitude in the type of opinion that would be written.