Legislature

Roberts Court destroys voting rights – only answer is to win back state legislatures

This week, a conservative majority in the U.S. Supreme Court that has dedicated itself to making it harder for Americans to vote has struck again and hammered a nail deeper into the heart of already flawed voting rights law. . As Republican state legislatures nationwide continue to pass restrictive laws that impose additional burdens, especially on voters of color, this court, in a decade of shameful and pinched case law, has slowly gutted the crucial tools put in place to curb the worst instincts of lawmakers.

In a 6-3 decision that broke with sadly predictable partisan lines, the court on Thursday upheld a pair of Arizona voter suppression laws that prohibited the collection of ballots and severely regulated voting outside the box. pregnant, despite clear evidence that these laws weighed heavily on the minority. voters.

The charges and racial intent in these cases were clear to lower courts and less determined partisan judges. Arizona officials are moving electoral districts of black and Latino residents at a much higher rate than white districts, resulting in considerable and predictable confusion. And Native Americans and residents of rural Arizona – where domestic postal service is scarce and often unreliable – rely on volunteers and community members to return their ballots. There has been no – zero – evidence of fraud in this important service.

None of it mattered to this Court, and indeed, the ruling is not surprising to those who follow the Roberts Court’s steady course to the right in voting and other civil rights matters. .

What this ruling strengthens, however, is that section 2 of the Voting Rights Act will no longer serve as necessary protection against legislation designed to suppress the vote of racial minorities. Even when the facts are as clear as they are here. And even in states like Arizona, where lawmakers have a century of experience crafting carefully crafted voting restrictions to preserve white political power.

This means that this move must serve as a last-ditch wake-up call to progressives – in fact, to all Americans who care about protecting the fundamental right to vote and perhaps the most valuable civil rights legislation in our country. story – about the urgent need to invest in state legislatures, whose power continues to grow. State legislatures are the last boss in the Republican quest to defeat democracy. We cannot cede this fight to them.

Brnovich: The case and the decision

The road to Brnovich began in 2013, when the Supreme Court overturned the “pre-authorization” requirement under section 5 of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder. Suddenly, states with a history of suppressing minority voters – including Arizona – were free to change the voting rules without obtaining the prior approval of the DOJ. They were going fast and taking full advantage of it. Arizona quickly passed the laws in question: first, to make someone else’s signed ballot a crime (known as ballot collection), and second, to disenfranchise those who did. accidentally voted in the wrong neighborhood.

Importantly, the plaintiffs in the case have presented clear and detailed evidence demonstrating that Latino and Native American voters are disproportionately overburdened with eliminating ballot collection, and that there are two minority voters. times more likely to vote in the wrong neighborhood than white Arizonans. These restrictions, according to the complainants, violated Section 2 the Voting Rights Act, which protects minority groups from discriminatory electoral laws and practices.

Nevertheless, Judge Samuel Alito declared for the majority this “Arizona’s Out-of-Pregnancy Policy and HB 2023 do not violate § 2 of the VRA, and HB 2023 was not enacted for the purpose of racial discrimination.” In doing so, the Court upheld discriminatory electoral laws and weakened Article 2 of the Voting Rights Law, which will make future challenges even more difficult.

Latest in a long line of coffin nails for voting rights law

A central goal of conservative jurisprudence is the removal of federal protections and the empowerment of states over large areas of social and civil life. This decision is part of a long trajectory of the Court limiting federal protections and returning power to states. Voting rights are a clear example of this trajectory, and the Brnovich decision now extends to its ancestors, in particular the Shelby County v. Holder. And indeed, Chief Justice Roberts was patiently prepare the dismantling of section 2 of the Voting Rights Act for 40 years. His long, careful game can end in a checkmate for majority rule as we know it.

Arizona: zero point

It is normal that this last decision obeys the laws of Arizona. Despite a victory for Biden, Arizona remains a Republican trifecta controlled by arch-conservatives in the legislature and the governor’s mansion. In a state where a few votes can be decisive for an election (just look at the 10 457– voting margin), this red trifecta has moved up a gear in terms of voter suppression and conspiracy since the 2020 elections.fraudThe election helped undermine confidence in democracy and served as a model for other GOP-controlled states. And a series of laws reduced voting rights and access, including a new draft of law to strip the (currently Democrat) the power of the secretary of state over key aspects of electoral administration.

State legislatures matter – now more than ever

As Rick Hasen has explained, Alito’s opinion in Abbott v. Perez’s 2018 essentially makes it impossible for a court to find discriminatory racial intent in voting laws when race and party categories overlap. But, obviously, given the patterns of racial polarization of the vote that have existed for a long time, they will often overlap. This means that state legislatures can use this natural circumstance to protect discriminatory intent as they see fit, without worrying about violating section 2. They can discriminate on the basis of race while claiming that they are simply using partisanship. . This has been the recent GOP strategy on gerrymandering. It will now be the move of choice in red state legislatures nationwide on voter suppression. This Court will not stop him. They deployed the green lights and removed all speed limits.

The bottom line is that the Brnovich decision must serve as a strong warning: the Roberts Court cannot and will not protect voting rights. And the truly mind-boggling deadlock in the Federal Democratic trifecta over a new federal voting rights law makes it clear that we absolutely cannot wait for Congress to act either. The answer is clear: on voting rights and more, the responsibility ends and will continue to end with state legislatures. We must elect lawmakers who will fight to protect voting rights – reduced ballot voting, where it matters most and is too often overlooked – or risk becoming a nation filled with democratic deserts, where your right to vote depends. where you live and your access to surveys depend on your skin color.

This is the America of John Roberts. The stakes could not be higher. Nobody comes to help us out.

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