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U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Arizona Voting Restrictions

Published: Thursday, July 1, 2021 - 7:26am
Updated: Thursday, July 1, 2021 - 4:57pm
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The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday upheld voting restrictions in Arizona in a decision that could make it harder to challenge other voting measures put in place by Republican lawmakers following last year's elections.

The court, by a 6-3 vote, reversed a lower court ruling in deciding that Arizona’s limits on who can return early ballots for another person and refusal to count ballots cast in the wrong precinct are not racially discriminatory.

The federal appeals court in San Francisco had held that the measures disproportionately affected Black, Hispanic and Native American voters in violation of the landmark Voting Rights Act.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote for a conservative majority that the state's interest in the integrity of elections justified the measures.

In dissent, Justice Elena Kagan wrote that the court was weakening the landmark voting rights law for the second time in eight years.

"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. What is tragic is that the Court has damaged a statute designed to bring about ‘the end of discrimination in voting.’ I respectfully dissent,” Kagan wrote, joined by the other two liberal justices.

The challenged Arizona provisions remained in effect in 2020 because the case was still making its way through the courts.

President Joe Biden narrowly won Arizona last year, and since 2018, the state has elected two Democratic senators.

Reaction to the conservative-high court’s ruling on state election law has been typically partisan.

A Republican state lawmaker who wants Arizona’s top election job started fundraising on the ruling she called a massive victory for secure voting.

But a Democrat with the top election post in Pima County called the decision a disgrace. Recorder Gabriella Cázares-Kelly said the Supreme Court has dealt a new blow to federal law banning discriminatory voting rules.

“I’m really disappointed that they continue to uphold false narratives that there is voter election fraud in Arizona,” she said.

Two Yuma County women are accused of ballot harvesting.

Arizona’s attorney general revealed the still pending charges months before he argued the state’s case at the Supreme Court. A trial date has not been set.

An organizer for a social economic justice group said the majority opinion is just the latest roadblock for Arizona voters and another reason why Congress must act.

A new state law passed this year could remove tens of thousands of voters from Arizona’s early ballot mailing list. Another piece of legislation cuts the time allowed to fix ballots with missing signatures.

Marilyn Wilbur, an Air Force veteran with the group CASE Action, said Arizona’s Democratic Senators Krysten Sinema and Mark Kelly need to fight for a new voting rights law.

“It shouldn’t be hard to vote. It really shouldn’t be. Voting should be easy,” said Wilbur. 

For reactions to the ruling, The Show heard from two different perspectives.

Joshua Sellers is an associate professor of law at Arizona State University's Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law; he has an an emphasis on election law.

Amanda Lugo is the democracy director with Living United for Change Arizona (LUCHA), which works to expand voting access to people of color.

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