SCOTUS maintains Arizona election restrictions affecting people of color

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On July 1, the Supreme Court of the United States voted 6-3 to uphold election restrictions in Arizona that social justice advocates argue are discriminatory against people of color. (Courtesy Photo)

By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. and Digital Editor
mgreen@afro.com

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) voted 6-3 to uphold election restrictions in Arizona that prevent people from casting votes in the wrong precinct or third parties from assisting in collecting mail-in ballots- a policy and ruling that some contend directly discriminate against the state’s communities of color.

“The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Arizona’s anti-voter policies is an affront to our democracy and a failure to protect our freedom to vote. Now Black, Latino, Native American voters who are discriminated against by these policies will not be able to make their voices heard in local, state, and federal elections,” People for the American Way President Ben Jealous said on July 1, the day the Court made the ruling.  

The case, Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, was partisan in nature, as Republicans, such as Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich felt that the restrictions protected voter integrity, while Democrats argued that the limitations cause roadblocks in people’s right and access to vote.

Despite social and racial justice advocates’ extreme concern with the Arizona rules, Justice Samuel Alito, who authored the opinion for the 6-3 decision, said the restrictions were,  “not enacted with a discriminatory purpose, as the District Court found.”

Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee has been closely examined and criticized as some argue that the limitations go against Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, that forbids states from enforcing any rules, “which results in a denial or abridgment,” of the right to vote based on race.  

Between redistricting and access to the polls, social justice advocates argue that it can be challenging for marginalized groups, who might have difficulty in access to reliable transportation or other trials, to access their correct voting precinct.  Further, third-party organizations helping collect mail-in ballots was also a means of helping those unable to make it to the mailbox or polls and ensure their votes are counted.

“Today’s decision is also a betrayal of the principles of the Voting Rights Act and of our democracy,” added Jealous, who also served as the former President of the NAACP.

However, Brnovich celebrated the SCOTUS decision.

“Today is a win for election integrity safeguards in Arizona and across the country. Fair elections are the cornerstone of our republic and they start with relational laws that protect both the right to vote and the accuracy of the results,” Brnovich said in a statement.  

As African Americans and communities of color continue to be met with challenges in the United States due to systemic racism and discriminatory policies, Jealous said it is important that Congress acts fast to protect the voting rights of all people.

“Congress must do everything it can to protect voting rights and prevent states from implementing discriminatory policies like these in the future, including prompt passage of the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.”

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