The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld voting restrictions in Arizona and made it more difficult to challenge new state restrictions as Republicans across the country push hundreds of bills to limit ballot access, The New York Times reports.
The six conservatives on the court voted to uphold the law while all three liberals dissented.
A federal appeals court last year had ruled that both laws disproportionately impact minority voters.
The Democratic National Committee sued Arizona over restrictions requiring ballots cast in the wrong district to be discarded and making it a crime for campaign workers and activists to collect ballots to deliver them to polling places.
The court upheld those restrictions but, more importantly, dealt the biggest blow to Voting Rights Act protections since the court’s Shelby decision gutted a section that required states with a history of racial discrimination to preclear any voting changes with the Justice Department.
Section 2 of VRA gutted:
Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act bars any voting procedure that “results in a denial or abridgment of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race.” The law defines that as when “based on the totality of circumstances,” racial minorities “have less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice.”
Justice Samuel Alito said in a majority opinion that Arizona’s laws did not violate the section because they do not exceed the “usual burdens of voting.”
"Mere inconvenience cannot be enough to demonstrate a violation" of the law, he wrote.
Despite the fact that the laws disadvantaged minority voters, “the mere fact there is some disparity in impact does not necessarily mean that a system is not equally open or does not give everyone an equal opportunity to vote,” he added.
SCOTUS makes it harder to challenge new laws:
The ruling will make it more difficult to challenge new restrictions passed by Republican-led legislatures this year.
"This significantly dilutes the Voting Rights Act," Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, told NBC News. "Minority groups will now have to meet a much higher standard beyond showing that a change presents a burden to voting. It puts a thumb on the scale for the states."
“I think the court has made it much harder to bring a claim under Section 2 than it was before," added Sean Morales-Doyle, a voting rights expert at the Brennan Center for Justice. "I think the court has also given cover to states that rely on the pretext of supposed fraud to burden the rights of voters of color and Native American voters."