Supreme Court Must Uphold Section 2 of Voting Rights Act To Prevent Discrimination in Voting
Washington D.C. – Today, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in Brnovich v. DNC, a case which could have profound implications for the future of voting rights in America. The case focuses on the role of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), a federal statute providing protection against racial discrimination in voting. Since the VRA was signed into law in 1965, it has been our country’s best defense against racially discriminatory voting policies, enabling advocates to advance more equitable voting systems that better represent communities of color.
“The Supreme Court should issue a ruling that upholds the Voting Rights Act, our nation’s most effective defense against racially discriminatory voting policies,” said Paul Smith, vice president of Campaign Legal Center (CLC). “Now is not the time to weaken the key provisions of the Voting Rights Act. Instead, we should be working to strengthen protections for communities of color to make sure every voice is heard in our democracy. Far too many people continue to face discriminatory barriers that make voting access needlessly difficult.”
Our democracy works best when everyone can participate. However, after a record-breaking 160 million Americans voted in the 2020 elections, politicians have pushed back with a rash of legislative proposals introduced across the country attempting to limit access to voting in future elections. Many of these measures – like rollbacks to mail voting or cuts to early voting hours – would disenfranchise communities of color at a disproportionately high rate.
Brnovich began in 2016 when several groups affiliated with the Democratic party, including the Democratic National Committee (DNC), sued the state of Arizona, challenging two state laws that prohibited the counting of ballots cast in the wrong precinct and the collection of absentee ballots by third parties. Voters of color in Arizona are twice as likely to cast an out-of-precinct ballot than white voters. On average, they also tend to use ballot collection services at a higher rate because they have less reliable mail service and live further from ballot drop off centers and post offices. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ultimately concluded that Arizona’s out-of-precinct policy and ballot-collection prohibition violated Section 2 of the VRA. The court found that these laws resulted in a racially disparate impact, particularly on Arizona’s Latino and Native American communities.
While the case deals with Arizona’s laws, the Supreme Court’s ruling will have national implications. Especially over the last decade, there has been a concerted effort to chip away at the VRA. Proponents of Arizona’s laws want to dispense with Section 2 and are using Brnovich as a vehicle to do that – not just in Arizona – but around the country.
Every eligible voter should be able to exercise their right to vote and have their voice heard. The court must affirm its vital role in preserving voting rights by striking down Arizona’s discriminatory laws.