WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court opened a judicial dispute over voting rights in the battlefield state of Arizona on Tuesday, and the outcome may affect how the country’s courts resolve clashes over electoral laws in dozens of other states.
The case will also be a test for one of the most important civil rights laws – the voting rights law, which the Supreme Court cut back significantly in 2013.
The virtual oral arguments before the judges involve two laws from Arizona. Electoral officials are required to reject ballot papers cast in the wrong districts. The other concerns postal voting and stipulates that only the voter, a family member or a carer can collect and submit a completed voting slip.
“Banning the unlimited harvest of ballots by third parties is a sensible means of protecting the secret ballot,” the state told judges in court records. The outside of the district rule is designed to prevent multiple votes, Arizona said.
But the Arizona Democrats said the state has historically switched polling stations in minority neighborhoods more frequently and held polling stations in places believed to be causing errors. Minorities move more often and own houses less often, which means that polling stations have to be changed, according to the Democrats.
Arizona vastly outperforms other states when it comes to dismissing ballots outside of the county, and rejects eleven times more than the next higher state. And minority voters are more likely to need help casting their ballots, the challengers said. In many states where the practice is legal, community activists offer ballot papers to encourage voting.
A federal judge in Arizona dismissed the challenges. However, the 9th Circle Court of Appeals reversed and the state appealed to the Supreme Court.
In the past, the Voting Rights Act required states with a history of discrimination to seek permission from the courts or the Department of Justice before changing the electoral process. The test was whether a change would put minority voters in a worse position. However, in 2013 the Supreme Court suspended the duty of clarification and ruled that Congress did not properly update the formula to determine which states should be covered.
According to what remains of the law, 9th constituency provisions may be blocked if they disproportionately impair the ability of a racial minority to participate in the electoral process and vote for candidates of their choosing, and if the state has historically discriminated against voters Minority. It concluded that the two laws of Arizona failed these legal tests.
However, the lower courts disagreed on how a change in electoral practice should violate the law.
Republicans in Arizona say the test should require evidence that a contested bill is severely affecting the ability of minority voters to vote, not just adding an extra burden. For example, the state says that if courts are considering contesting a law that closes elections half an hour early, the courts should look at the electoral system as a whole and consider other voting options, such as voting by mail or early voting.
However, the Arizona Democrats say the law does not require evidence of “significant inequality” and that it is not necessary to meet a minimum percentage of minority voters affected in order to successfully challenge a change in voting rules.
The Arizona-sponsored test, which the American Civil Liberties Union argued in a friend of the court, would “impose a categorical approach that laws that are relatively common or not impossible to vote at all are largely immune from liability”.
But Texas Senator Ted Cruz and other Republicans said that interpreting the Democrat-sponsored bill would jeopardize any neutral electoral law if it resulted in an unequal choice when “a challenger finds minimal racial statistics related to the bill – and…” then points to a completely separate, long gone, insidious electoral discrimination. “
The Supreme Court will issue its decision by the summer.