Supreme Court Makes It More Difficult to Protect Voters of Color from Discrimination
The Need for Congress to Pass the For the People Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is Greater Than Ever Before
In a 6-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court made it more difficult for voters of color to protect themselves against discrimination, by changing the long-established standards for how Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act can stop discrimination in voting.
In a majority opinion by Associate Justice Samuel Alito, the court found that two Arizona voting practices, which had been found to disproportionately impact indigenous, Black, and Latinx voters were acceptable. As Justice Kagan wrote in her dissent, “What is tragic is that the court has damaged a statute designed to bring about ‘the end of discrimination in voting.’”
The following is a statement from Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law:
“When the Supreme Court dismantled the preclearance provision of the Voting Rights Act eight years ago, it cited as part of its rationale that provisions of Section 2 of the Act were still available to protect voters. Now, the court has undercut the effectiveness of that important law. This is a shameful day, and a troubling one for voting rights.
“The right of all citizens to vote, free from discrimination, is at the center of what makes our democracy work. Today’s ruling seems to imply that voting discrimination is a thing of the past so it should be harder to prove. But we know better. We know there is discrimination in decisions to close and consolidate polling places, in making it more difficult for voters of color to register to vote and vote by mail, and in the disproportionately longer lines that voters of color experience than do white voters.
“These types of practices threaten to kill democracy by a thousand cuts. The court has now made it more difficult to fight those practices, and, in doing so, has signaled open season for those who are making it more difficult for people to vote, as their conduct will not be stopped by the courts.
“We will not relent in the fight to advocate and litigate using Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. However, as the federal judiciary continues to fail to defend our democracy, it is incumbent upon the legislative branch to act. Congress must pass both the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Every day without action invites more mayhem and brings our democracy closer to its demise.”
The case, Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, challenged two Arizona voting laws. The first law rejected the ballots of voters who voted out of precinct, and the second limited who can collect absentee ballots to immediate family members. At trial, proofs showed that both these laws had a discriminatory impact on the voting rights of Black, Latinx, and indigenous voters. These voters were more likely to vote out of precinct because they were more likely to relocate, and were also less likely to have access to personal motor vehicles, making it necessary to have others who could collect and deliver their absentee ballot.