Voting Rights are back in the spotlight after the contentious 2020 Presidential election. Here’s what both sides are saying. To have stories like this and more delivered directly to your inbox, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.
Top Story: Voting Rights
Andrew Chung and Lawrence Hurley, writing for Reuters, report: “US Supreme Court justices on Tuesday appeared inclined to uphold two Republican-backed voting restrictions in Arizona in a case that could further hobble the Voting Rights Act, a landmark 1965 federal law that prohibits racial discrimination in voting. During nearly two hours of oral arguments by teleconference the court’s conservative justices, who hold a 6-3 majority, asked questions indicating they could issue a ruling that would make it harder to prove violations of the Voting Right Act.
First Some Background
…One of Arizona’s measures made it a crime to provide another person’s completed early ballot to election officials, with the exception of family members or caregivers. Community activists sometimes engage in ballot collection to facilitate voting and increase voter turnout. The practice, which critics call ‘ballot harvesting,’ is legal in most states, with varying limitations.
The other provision disqualified ballots cast in-person at a precinct other than the one to which a voter has been assigned. Voting rights advocates said voters sometimes inadvertently cast ballots at the wrong precinct, with the assigned polling place sometimes not the one closest to a voter’s home.”
According to the Department of Justice, “Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibits voting practices or procedures that discriminate on the basis of race, color, or membership in one of the language minority groups identified in Section 4(f)(2) of the Act.”
A decision in the cases, Arizona Republican Party v. Democratic National Committee, and another named Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee is expected before July. These cases are not directly related HR1, or “The For the People Act,” which is also in the headlines this week. We will be covering HR1 in tomorrow’s edition. For now, here’s what both sides are saying about the cases in front of the Supreme Court:
On The Right
Republicans believe these laws are fully constitutional and necessary to ensure fair and transparent elections. They see this as an opportunity for the Supreme Court to provide a clarifying interpretation of existing law that avoids further obstruction to legislative safeguards.
The Wall Street Journal editors believe that the laws are constitutional since “Both rules are intended to bolster ballot integrity.” The editors write that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was meant to “stop states from disenfranchising blacks with underhanded methods like poll taxes and literacy tests,” but “Democrats now argue that any state regulation that makes it a little harder for anyone to vote violates the law—even if it applies equally to minorities and whites.” They further contend that “The Voting Rights Act (VRA) puts the burden on plaintiffs to show that minorities, based on the ‘totality of circumstances,’ have ‘less opportunity’ than others to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice.” The Arizona case has bounced around while ascending the legal ladder to The Supreme Court, and WSJ editors blame the courts that have “defined this so broadly that it has invited political mischief and judicial activism on an ad hoc basis.” Due to divisive “political contention over voting access and election laws,” the editors want to see the Court “set proper parameters around Section 2 to distinguish between real and invented legal violations.”
In Fox News, Jason Snead pulls no punches and argues that “Perhaps no case better illustrates the political left’s current animosity to even the most commonsense election protection measures, or its willingness to use unsupported race-based allegations to attack them in court and in public.” He continues, observing that “Arizona has a voting system that any reasonable observer would think makes it extraordinarily easy to vote. The state offers online voter registration and allows anyone to vote by early ballot for any reason. For the 27 days before Election Day, Arizona voters can vote in-person at any early voting center or return an early ballot by postage-free mail or hand delivery. And Arizonans take advantage of these opportunities – in 2016, long before the pandemic, about 80% of ballots cast were early ballots.” He concludes that “Arizona has, if anything, a voting system that might err on the side of too little protection.” With respect to ballot harvesting, specifically, he points out that in a different state, “The North Carolina Board of Elections unanimously invalidated a congressional election in 2018 over evidence of fraud perpetrated through ballot trafficking.” Snead ends by accusing progressive activists and politicians of “pursuing every avenue to weaken voting laws even though, by wide margins, voters in both parties embrace strong safeguards like voter ID laws and vote trafficking bans.”
Dan McLaughlin takes on a specific argument from the left in National Review. Because the left knows they have a very weak case, he claims, they are in a “panicked scramble to get the case thrown out on procedural grounds before the Court can decide that there is no voting-rights violation going on here.” He goes on to defend the second part of Arizona’s legislation, which “requires people to vote where they are registered.” McLaughlin sees this demand as an “entirely commonplace and race-neutral requirement.” He concludes that the GOP has “standing on grounds that it benefits from enforcing an entirely fair and valid law against counting illegal ballots. Anybody who tells you otherwise is selling you something.”
Conservatives expect a Supreme Court ruling that will bless their attempts to revise and instill voter confidence in a now-flawed electoral process.
On The Left
What the right sees as a chance to bolster election integrity, the left broadly dismisses as an attempt to suppress the vote in Democratic strongholds. Democrats see Arizona’s legislation as emblematic of the racist legacy of voter suppression in this country.
The LA Times Editorial Board argues that “The Court must not water down the law’s protections for voters of color.” Instead, they contend, “Courts must look not only at whether there is equal opportunity to vote on paper, but also at whether some practices have the real-world effect of disenfranchising minorities.” They cite a 2013 Supreme Court case that weakened previously established protections and argue that “Congress must enact measures to rectify the harm caused…and to protect against new state efforts to suppress turnout.” However, they believe that the Court, in addition to Congress, “Must make clear that Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act will protect minority voters from subtle as well as overt discrimination.”
Jessica Levinson makes a similar argument for a dual Congressional and Supreme Court-based approach in MSNBC. She writes that “As much as it is important for the Supreme Court to define the reach of what remains of the Voting Rights Act, it is crucial for Congress to take this opportunity to pass a new Voting Rights Act that truly protects the right to vote.” She points out that the 2013 Supreme Court Ruling ruling eliminated a carve-out known as Section 5. The carve-out had placed the burden of proof on specific jurisdictions, rather than plaintiffs, to sue for damages related to election fairness. Because the Court is now more conservative, Levinson argues, it is “not likely to make the remaining column more robust. Instead, it is up to Congress to act and President Joe Biden to sign a more robust voting rights act — not in six months, but now.”
Charles M. Blow writes in The New York Times that “When it comes to voter suppression, ignoble intentions are always draped in noble language. Those who seek to impede others from voting, in some cases to strip them of the right, often say that they are doing so to ensure the sanctity, integrity or purity of the vote.” He contends that rather than voter integrity, Republicans are motivated by antagonism toward “the voting power of the racial minority, the young — in their eyes, naïve and liberally indoctrinated — and the dyed-in-the-wool Democrats.” He calls the Arizona bills “an electoral fleecing in plain sight, one targeting people of color. We are watching another of history’s racist robberies. It’s grand larceny and, as usual, what is being stolen is power.”
The left sees Republican voter integrity legislation as nothing more than an attempt to suppress the franchise of voters most likely to cast their vote for a Democrat.
A poll from the R Street Institute, a free markets group, finds that 67 percent of Republicans view the past election results as invalid, compared to 23 percent who believe the opposite. Meanwhile, the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 36% of voters unaffiliated with either major political party believes that Joe Biden did not win the election fairly. While 70% of GOP voters and 46% of non-affiliated voters say mail-in voting led to unprecedented fraud in the 2020 election, only 11% of Democrats agree. If these party splits sound familiar, it’s because they are. In 2016, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found that one-third of Hillary Clinton supporters believed Donald Trump’s presidential victory was not legitimate, and outlets like The Guardian called the 2016 election “fatally corrupted.”
What do you think? Is this a chance to win back voter confidence by clarifying existing legislation? Or is it an attempt to disenfranchise voters and make it harder for minorities to cast their ballot? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.