Supreme Court leaves Arizona voting restrictions in place

WASHINGTON (thehill): The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that a pair of Republican-backed Arizona voting restrictions do not run afoul of federal law, rejecting a Democratic challenge and dealing a blow to voting rights advocates.

The 6-3 decision, which fell along familiar ideological lines, comes as a raft of GOP-crafted voting limits are introduced and passed across the country, with Democrats and civil rights groups turning to courts to argue the new measures threaten to suppress the vote of racial minorities.

One Arizona policy at issue in Thursday’s case requires provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct to be discarded. The second measure makes it illegal for most third parties to deliver ballots for others, a practice critics refer to as “ballot harvesting.”

A federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled last year that the Arizona policies violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 because they disproportionately affect minority groups, prompting Republicans’ appeal to the Supreme Court.

Thursday’s ruling comes eight years after the Shelby County v. Holder decision, which dealt with another provision of the Voting Rights Act. There, the court eliminated the government’s preclearance authority under Section 5 of the law, which had allowed the Department of Justice (DOJ) to screen proposed changes to voting procedures in states with a history of racial discrimination in elections.

In striking down the preclearance requirement in 2013, Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for a 5-4 majority, said the Voting Rights Act could continue to guard against racially discriminatory voting laws after-the-fact through Section 2 of the law, the provision at issue in Thursday’s case.

The challenge to Arizona’s voting restrictions marked the first time the Supreme Court addressed a vote-denial lawsuit brought under Section 2, which bars discrimination on the basis of race, color or membership in a language minority group. Proving a violation requires showing either that lawmakers intended discrimination, or that a voting restriction has a discriminatory impact.

The lawsuit was brought by the Democratic National Committee and backed by Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D). Defending the voting restrictions were the state’s Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich and the Arizona Republican Party.