The Supreme Court in oral arguments Tuesday appeared to be wary of issuing a judgment that challenge “every voting rule” that exists.
The justices heard arguments on an Arizona dispute regarding two state laws. One makes it a felony punishable by prison and a $150,000 fine for people to collect ballots from voters and turn them in. There are exceptions for relatives, caregivers, mail carriers and election officials.
The other law forbids voters from casting ballots outside their precincts.
Both are opposed by Democratics and left-leaning organizations that want to make it easier to cast a ballot and to remove requirements for residency, signatures and more.
That’s what happened during the 2020 election when officials in multiple states violated state laws regarding ballot requirements and deadlines to count a flood of mail-in ballots that mostly were for Joe Biden.
Courthouse News noted that nearly a decade ago, a provision of the Voting Rights Act was struck down when the high court ruled states with histories of discrimination no longer were required to get federal approval for any changes to voting requirements.
The Arizona Republican Party has argued that the laws in its state are neutral and that imposing requirements to vote is not by itself illegal.
Michael Caryin, a lawyer for the party, said all voters still are given the same “opportunity.”
“We don’t think severe — or minor — disproportionate outcomes violate Section 2 [of the Voting Rights Act],” he said. “It’s not the outcome, it’s the opportunity.”
“The question is not what’s wrong with it, the question is why a system that poses no unfairness on the group be changed simply because they find a different method of voting more convenient,” he said.
Justice Samuel Alito was skeptical of the law’s breadth.
He told lawyers challenging the voting restrictions, “What concerns me is that your position is going to make every voting rule vulnerable to attack under Section 2.”
Alito challenged the contention of a lawyer for the Democratic National Committee, Bruce Spiva, that voting restrictions are aimed “squarely at the minority groups that Congress intended to protect.”
“People who are poor and less well educated probably will find it more difficult to comply with almost every voting rule than people who are more affluent and have the benefit of more education,” he said.
The DNC claims ballots from Native American, Latino and black voters are rejected for being out-of-precinct twice as much as ballots from whites, because the voters go to wrong poll sites by mistake.
A ruling is due by the end of June.
The DNC challenged both requirements, claiming they violate a prohibition on policies or laws that “result in racial discrimination in voting.”
The DNC claimed the ban on ballot harvesting was the result of “intentional discrimination” on the part of lawmakers.
The district court sided with the state, only to be reversed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which is the most overturned appeals court in the nation. The 9th Circuit blamed the state for changing voters’ “assigned polling places with unusual frequency” so that they would make mistakes.
That court said the mistakes are linked to “social and historical conditions in Arizona in a way that causes an inequality in the opportunity for minority voters to elect their preferred representatives or otherwise participate in the political process.”
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