Arizona’s ban on ballot-harvesting and out-of-precinct voting does not violate the federal Voting Rights Act, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 this morning in a closely watched case with implications for future elections.
The court opinion split neatly along ideological and partisan lines with the 6 conservative justices nominated by Republican presidents voting to uphold the state law and the 3 liberal justices voting to strike it down.
The decision reverses a judgment issued by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and comes the week after the Biden administration filed a lawsuit against Georgia over the state’s new electoral integrity-promoting law claiming it amounts to so-called voter suppression. The state’s Republican governor, Brian Kemp, said the U.S. Department of Justice’s suit was “legally and constitutionally dead wrong.”
Justice Samuel Alito wrote the court’s opinion in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee (DNC), court file 19-1257, and Arizona Republican Party v. DNC, court file 19-1258, which was published July 1. Mark Brnovich is the Republican attorney general of Arizona. Oral arguments took place telephonically March 2 after the Supreme Court decided Oct. 2, 2020, to hear the consolidated case.
The reach of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965 was at issue in the case.
The Supreme Court today concluded that Arizona’s out-of-precinct policy and the law known as HB 2023 do not violate Section 2 of the VRA. The court also found that HB 2023 was not enacted with a racially discriminatory purpose.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, sitting en banc, “misunderstood and misapplied [Section 2] and … exceeded its authority in rejecting the District Court’s factual finding on the issue of legislative intent,” Alito wrote in the court’s opinion.
Section 2 of the law forbids voting practices that result “in a denial or abridgment of the right … to vote on account of race or color [or language-minority status],” and provides that such a result “is established” if a jurisdiction’s “political processes … are not equally open” to members of such a group “in that [they] have less opportunity … to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice.”
The Biden administration sent a letter to the court Feb. 16 in which it, like the Trump administration before it, acknowledged the challenged Arizona laws were consistent with the federal statute.