The Supreme Court ruling on Thursday upholding Arizona’s election laws over a challenge from the Democratic National Committee outraged Democratic politicians and liberal activists, who said it’s time to set national election standards and pack the Supreme Court with liberal jurists.
President Biden said the ruling is contrary to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and shows that it is time for Congress to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.
“The Court’s decision, harmful as it is, does not limit Congress‘ ability to repair the damage done today: it puts the burden back on Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act to its intended strength,” the president said in a statement.
The bills would expand voting rights and impose limits on campaign financing. They would also impose some requirements from the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that the high court struck down in 2013. These included mandates that certain states and jurisdictions, mostly in the South, get pre-clearance from the federal government before changing any elections policies to avoid discrimination against minority voters.
Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee said they would prepare the John Lewis voting bill for passage, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, called for both bills to move through Congress.
“The For the People would be a remedy for the assault on the vote and on our democracy, and would prevent the disasters in both cases,” she said. “We also need H.R. 4, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, to combat the brazen voter suppression threatening to erode our democracy.”
The 6-3 ruling Thursday from an ideologically divided Supreme Court bolstered a state’s right to implement its own eligibility requirements.
In Arizona, all voters can cast early ballots by mail up to 27 days before Election Day. No one needs an excuse to vote by mail.
The Democratic National Committee aimed to strike down Arizona’s requirement that voters who cast ballots in person on Election Day do so at assigned precincts. Another regulation that was challenged bans anyone other than a caregiver, family member, mail carrier or elections official from returning the ballots of another voter.
Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., who wrote the opinion for the court, said there is a legitimate state interest in preventing fraud during an election.
“Fraud can affect the outcome of a close election, and fraudulent votes dilute the right of citizens to cast ballots that carry appropriate weight. Fraud can also undermine public confidence in the fairness of elections and the perceived legitimacy of the announced outcome. Ensuring that every vote is cast freely, without intimidation or undue influence, is also a valid and important state interest,” he wrote.
The three Democratic-appointed justices disagreed.
Justice Elena Kagan, an Obama appointee, wrote a dissent saying the majority of the justices ran afoul of the Voting Rights Act by upholding Arizona’s law.
“What is tragic is that the Court has damaged a statute designed to bring about ‘the end of discrimination in voting,’” she wrote.
Justices Stephen G. Breyer, a Clinton appointee, and Sonia Sotomayor, an Obama appointee, joined Justice Kagan’s dissent.
The DNC‘s lawsuit, originally filed in 2016, aimed to ease Arizona’s laws on ballot harvesting and other election conduct such as assigned precinct voting.
A U.S. District Court ruled for Arizona, finding that the state’s regulations were not aimed at suppressing minority voters.
The DNC argued that the laws disenfranchised Hispanic, Black and American Indian voters who had to wait in long lines at assigned precincts and might not have transportation to get to their polling locations.
The federal court decision against the DNC noted that about 99% of the minority voters cast ballots in the correct precincts.
The full 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court. It ruled that the state enacted laws with discriminatory intent and that Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act is violated when “more than a de minimis number of minority voters … are disparately affected.”
“De minimis” refers to a number too trivial to merit consideration.
The high court’s move reversed that ruling, sparking outrage from the left.
The Senate, under Republican control, never took up elections bills passed by House Democrats. Now that Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, controls the chamber, he has moved forward with the For the People Act. The bill lacked Republican support and failed in a procedural vote last month.
It would take 60 senators in the upper chamber to pass the legislation, and Democrats hold only 50 seats.
Mr. Schumer said the high court failed to respond to restrictive election laws, especially those passed in red states after “President Trump’s Big Lie about the November election” being stolen in November through massive mail-in ballots.
“These decisions today only further underscore the need for Congress to act to preserve democracy by ensuring that every eligible American is able to freely exercise their fundamental right to vote and that billionaires are no longer able to buy elections,” Mr. Schumer said.
Some liberal activists called for Mr. Biden and Congress to expand the Supreme Court and add liberal justices to counter the 6-3 conservative majority.
“We cannot let this radical, conservative Supreme Court continue to undermine our democracy, our freedom to vote and our basic rights. Congress must act quickly to restore balance to the Supreme Court by passing the Judiciary Act to add four seats to the Supreme Court,” said Brett Edkins, political director for Stand Up America.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said it’s wrong for the left to push federal election laws and use divisive rhetoric. “Any attempt to nationalize our elections is not only inconsistent with the Constitution, but it will undermine state sovereignty, and it is an attempt to consolidate more power with the far left,” he said. “Shame on the far left for trying to make this a racial issue.”
Other conservatives said the Arizona case indicates that the Justice Department should drop its lawsuit filed last week challenging Georgia’s new election law.
Like the DNC in the Arizona dispute, the Justice Department said the state’s measures disenfranchise minorities.
“As Attorney General Merrick Garland prepares to challenge Georgia’s election security law in federal court, we hope that today’s decision sends a clear message to the Justice Department that election integrity measures have nothing to do with race, but instead have everything to do with making it easier to vote and harder to cheat,” said Adam Brandon, president of FreedomWorks.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said he made sure ballot harvesting was illegal in his state and required voters to cast ballots in their precincts to make the election process smoother.
“In Georgia, it’s easy for eligible voters to vote. I call on the U.S. Department of Justice to heed this decision and dismiss their wrong, politically motivated lawsuit against Georgia,” he said.
The Justice Department said it is not backing down from the voting rights battle.
“The Attorney General has made clear, ‘the Department of Justice will never stop working to protect the democracy to which all Americans are entitled,’” the department said in a statement after the high court’s ruling. “The department remains strongly committed to challenging discriminatory election laws.”