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Voting Rights Act dealt another serious blow

By Hubert Plummer posted 07-05-2021 05:41 PM

  

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog.  Frankly, it has been a little overwhelming with the continued attacks on voting rights, trans kids, and immigration to name just a few.

But the one that finally got to me was the recent decision by the Supreme Court further eviscerating the Voting Rights Act. I spoke about Mark Brnovich, Attorney General of Arizona, et al., v. Democratic National Committee, et al. [i] in which the DNC challenged some discriminatory voting laws in Arizona.  This case comes under section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.  The earlier ­Shelby County case challenged section 5 of the VRA.[ii]

The two laws challenged are: a requirement that election officials discard ballots cast at the wrong location, and a law that prohibits “ballot harvesting”, where someone brings ballots to the polling place for others.  It seems to me that if you were concerned with election integrity, you would want to make sure misplaced votes get to the proper place, not just throw them out.

The decision was 6-3 with the 3 liberal justices in dissent. The majority essentially held that Section 2 could be used to challenge a law only when it imposes substantial and disproportionate burden on minority voters, effectively blocking their ability to cast a ballot.  So, if there is any other way for someone to vote, then these restrictions are acceptable.[iii] This will make challenging discriminatory laws much more difficult.

So, according to the court’s decision, Arizona’s restrictions are fine.  As of June 21, 17 states enacted 28 new laws that restrict access to the vote. With some state legislatures still in session, more laws will certainly follow.[iv] Indeed, at least 61 bills with restrictive provisions are moving through 18 state legislatures. More specifically, 31 have passed at least one chamber, while another 30 have had some sort of committee action (e.g., a hearing, an amendment, or a committee vote). Overall, lawmakers have introduced at least 389 restrictive bills in 48 states in the 2021 legislative sessions.[v]

Some of the new restrictive laws as compiled by The Brennan Center [vi]

Shorten window to apply for a mail ballot

AL HB 538, AR SB 643, GA SB 202, IA SF 413, KY HB 574, OK HB 2663

Shorten deadline to deliver mail ballot

AR SB 643

Make it harder to remain on absentee voting lists

AZ SB 1485, FL SB 90

Eliminate or limit sending mail ballot applications to voters who do not specifically request them

GA SB 202, IA SF 413, KS HB 2332

Eliminate or limit sending mail ballots to voters who do not specifically request them

FL SB 90

Restrict assistance in returning a voter’s mail ballot

AR HB 1715, FL SB 90, IA SF 413, KS HB 2183, KY HB 574, MT SB 530

Limit the number, location, or availability of mail ballot drop boxes

FL SB 90, GA SB 202, IA SF 413, IN SB 398

Impose stricter signature requirements for mail ballots

AZ SB 1003, ID HB 290, KS HB 2183

Tighten or impose voter ID requirements for mail voting

FL SB 90, GA SB 202, MT SB 169

Tighten or impose voter ID requirements for in-person voting

AR HB 1112, AR HB 1244, MT SB 169, WY HB 75

Expand voter purges or risk faulty voter purges

IA SF 413, FL SB 90, KY HB 574, UT HB 12

Ban snacks and water to voters waiting in line

FL SB 90, GA SB 202

Eliminate Election Day registration

MT HB 176

Reduce polling place availability (locations or hours)

IA SF 413, MT SB 196

Limit early voting days or hours

GA SB 202, IA SF 413

 

These restrictions are primarily driven by Republicans.  As I have said, Republicans are using the excuse of voter fraud to justify these sweeping restrictions.  No evidence has been brought to light suggesting that voter fraud is a substantial problem that needs to be so aggressively attacked.

Again, we need Congress to get moving and pass comprehensive voter rights legislation that will ensure every citizen’s right to vote is protected.

 

[i] https://communities.nysba.org/blogs/hubert-g-plummer-esq/2021/03/01/voting-rights-act-of-1965-before-the-supreme-court

[ii] https://communities.nysba.org/blogs/hubert-g-plummer-esq/2018/07/26/voting-rights

[iii] https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/20pdf/19-1257_g204.pdf

[iv] https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1-tZiTOTJkq4kDKPQtzLaQjtjWssP8B0zj36UlKq3P9g/edit#gid=342516381

[v] https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/voting-laws-roundup-may-2021

[vi] https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/voting-laws-roundup-may-2021 


 

The author[s] is solely responsible for this blog submission.  It does not represent the position of the New York State Bar Association or its Committee.

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