The US Supreme Court today agreed to hear two Arizona voting cases that could spell the complete end of the Voting Rights Act, and the end of the Democratic Party. Ian Millhiser calls it the biggest direct threat to voting in decades:
The specific issue in the Democratic National Committee cases concerns two Arizona laws that require certain ballots to be discarded. One law requires voting officials to discard in their entirety ballots cast by voters who vote in the wrong precinct (rather than simply not counting votes for local candidates that the voter should not have been able to vote for).
The other law prohibits “ballot collection” (or “ballot harvesting”) where a voter gives their absentee ballot to a third party, who delivers that ballot to the election office. (Arizona is one of many states that impose at least some restrictions on ballot collection.)
Both of these laws disproportionately disenfranchise voters of color. As a federal appeals court explained in an opinion striking down the two laws, “uncontested evidence in the district court established that minority voters in Arizona cast [out of precinct] ballots at twice the rate of white voters.” And Hispanic and Native American voters are especially likely to rely on a third party to ensure that their ballot is cast.
One reason for this disparity is that some parts of the state require voters to cast their ballot in counterintuitive locations. Some Maricopa County voters, for example, were required to “travel 15 minutes by car (according to [G]oogle maps) to vote” in their assigned polling location, “passing four other polling places along the way,” according to an expert witness.
In addition, according to the appeals court, many Arizona voters of color lack easy access to the mail and are unable to easily travel on their own to cast a ballot. As the appeals court explained, “in urban areas of heavily Hispanic counties, many apartment buildings lack outgoing mail services,” and only 18 percent of Native American registered voters have home mail service.
Meanwhile, Black, Native, and Hispanic voters are “significantly less likely than non-minorities to own a vehicle” and more likely to have “inflexible work schedules.” Thus, their ability to vote might depend on their ability to give their ballot to a friend or an activist who will take that ballot to the polls for them.
The legal rules implementing the Voting Rights Act are complicated. And the specific legal rules governing these cases are impossible to summarize in a concise way. Courts have to consider myriad factors, including “the extent of any history of official discrimination” in a state accused of violating the Voting Rights Act, and “the extent to which voting in the elections of the state or political subdivision is racially polarized.”
In any event, a majority of the appeals court judges who considered Arizona’s two laws determined that they violate the Voting Rights Act.
Of course this means that given Chief Justice John Roberts and his notorious hatred for voting rights, there's already 5 votes on SCOTUS to overturn this and allow states to make voting as difficult as possible for Black, Hispanic, and Native voters.
And that's the point.