Arizona at center of Supreme Court voting rights case

Updated: Mar. 2, 2021 at 5:31 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Oral arguments before the Supreme Court started Tuesday, March 2, 2021, for Brnovich v DNC, which is likely to set precedent for voting laws around the nation, no matter the outcome.

The case deals with two Arizona election statutes and their place in the Voting Rights Act. In Arizona, voters must vote in their precinct, and third parties cannot collect ballots—otherwise known as ballot harvesting. Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich argued in favor of Arizona’s current laws that have been challenged by the Democratic National Committee, which called them discriminatory.

“A lot of folks have said this case is one of the most important in front of the Supreme Court this term, and maybe the most important case, especially with elections the last decade,” Brnovich said.

Groups like Campaign Legal Center, which, according to their website “advances democracy through law, fighting for every American’s right to participate in the democratic process,” and Arizona Coalition for Change, said the laws discriminate against some voters. Campaign Legal Center said people of color in Arizona are twice as likely to cast an out-of-precinct ballot than white voters.

“Any new barriers for voting are for specific demographics,” said Andres Portela, the deputy director of Arizona Coalition for Change. “For this to become a political tool is quite disheartening.”

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said these laws do not play a large role in keeping elections fair and safe in Arizona.

“The out of precinct law is pretty outdated,” she said. “We have the technology available that voters don’t have to be tied to the precinct where they live.”

Those for, say the precinct law helps officials account and keep track of voters—calling them “common-sense safety measures.” Honest Elections Project, which claims to be, “a nonpartisan group devoted to supporting the right of every lawful voter to participate in free and honest elections” on its website, said voters in both parties want things like “voter ID laws and vote trafficking bans.”

“These are widespread laws that are put in place for every good reasons. We need clear rules to allow for the smooth, efficient operation of elections,” said Jason Snead, executive director of Honest Election Project.

“There is nothing in Arizona statutes that are designed to disenfranchise anyone,” said Brnovich.

While those against these types of laws say access to transportation and home mail services hinder Native, Black and Latino communities’ ability to vote at a greater amount than their white neighbors.

“This isn’t about competitive disadvantages or zero summation, which is what we hear in oral arguments,” Portela said.

Both sides agree on one thing, this case could set precedent for future voting law cases—potentially shaping elections for years across the U.S.

The supreme court agreed to hear the case in October last year. They are expected to make a decision this summer.

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