UPDATED with President Biden’s response: President Joe Biden knocked the Supreme Court’s ruling to uphold voting restrictions in Arizona today in a scathing statement citing “severe damage to two of the most important provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – a law that took years of struggle and strife to secure.”
“I am deeply disappointed in today’s decision by the United States Supreme Court that undercuts the Voting Rights Act, and upholds what Justice Kagan called “a significant race-based disparity in voting opportunities,” Biden said.
“After all we have been through to deliver the promise of this Nation to all Americans, we should be fully enforcing voting rights laws, not weakening them. Yet this decision comes just over a week after Senate Republicans blocked even a debate – even consideration – of the For the People Act that would have protected the right to vote from action by Republican legislators in states across the country,” he continued.
Read the full statement here.
The U.S. Department of Justice last week sued the state of Georgia, the Georgia Secretary of State, and the Georgia State Election Board over recent voting procedures signed into law in March. The DOJ contends that several provisions were adopted “with the purpose of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race,” alleging “that the cumulative and discriminatory effect of these laws—particularly on Black voters—was known to lawmakers and that lawmakers adopted the law despite this.”
The law sent ripples through one of Hollywood’s biggest production hubs and at least one major production decamped. Georgia based voting rights activists Stacey Abrams and industry heavyweight Tyler Perry, however, urged businesses not to boycott the state but look to the DOJ or upcoming elections.
PREVIOUSLY: The U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority asserted its dominance Thursday, upholding voting restrictions in Arizona in one of its final decisions of the session. The 6-3 ruling along ideological lines eroded hopes of successful legal challenges to restrictive voting laws in dozens of states including Georgia.
The ruling on Mark Brnovich, Attorney General of Arizona v. Democratic National Committee lets stand two restrictions: one discounts votes cast in the wrong precinct and the other makes it a crime for anyone other than a family member, caretaker or election worker to collect early mail-in ballots.
A District Court in the initial case rejected claims that the rules had an adverse effect on the the state’s minority populations — and that the ballot-collection restriction in particular was enacted with discriminatory intent. That ruling, later reversed, has now been upheld by the Supreme Court.
Justice Alito, delivering the majority opinion, said plaintiffs had not provided statistical or concrete evidence showing that the laws had a disparate impact on minority voters or that they were enacted with discriminatory intent – in other words that neither violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The opinion also punted to Congress as the proper branch to enact changes in the law if desired. That’s something many Democrats would like but is currently out of reach given the filibuster rule in the Senate. The decision today is thought likely to increase pressure on Democrats Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema to eliminate the filibuster, which requires a 60 vote threshold – not a simple majority – to approve any legislation that’s not budget related.
Justice Kagan, joined by Justice Breyer and Justice Sotomayor in dissenting, wrote: “What is tragic here is that the Court has (yet again) rewritten—in order to weaken—a statute that stands as a monument to America’s greatness, and protects against its basest impulses. What is tragic is that the Court has damaged a statute designed to bring about “the end of discrimination in voting.”
In its final decision of the term, handed down shortly after and also 6-3, the court ruled that charitable organizations do not have to disclose donor information to the California Attorney General, saying the requirement, currently in effect in the state, violates free speech — sparking fears of dark money and lack of transparency. The case was the Koch brothers’ political advocacy group Americans For Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta, Attorney General Of California.
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