Voting rights ruling increases pressure on Democrats to act

Jul 1, 2021, 10:32 PM | Updated: Jul 2, 2021, 1:17 pm
FILE - In this Nov. 4, 2020, file photo Maricopa County elections officials count ballots at the Ma...

FILE - In this Nov. 4, 2020, file photo Maricopa County elections officials count ballots at the Maricopa County Recorder's Office in Phoenix. The Supreme Court has upheld voting restrictions in Arizona in a decision that could make it harder to challenge other voting measures put in place by Republican lawmakers following last year's elections. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)

(AP Photo/Matt York, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congressional Democrats are facing renewed pressure to pass legislation that would protect voting rights after a Supreme Court ruling made it harder to challenge Republican efforts to limit ballot access in many states.

The 6-3 ruling Thursday on a case out of Arizona was the second time in a decade that conservatives on the Supreme Court have weakened components of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a landmark Civil Rights-era law. But this opinion was released in a much different political climate, in the aftermath of President Donald Trump’s lie that last year’s election was stolen.

Trump’s fabrications spurred Republicans in states such as Georgia and Florida to pass tougher rules on voting under the cloak of election integrity.

Democrats on Capitol Hill have already tried to respond with a sweeping voting and elections bill that Senate Republicans united to block last week. A separate bill, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would restore sections of the Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court previously weakened, has been similarly dismissed by most Republicans.

Those setbacks, combined with the Supreme Court’s decision, have fueled a sense of urgency among Democrats to act while they still have narrow majorities in the House and Senate. But passing voting legislation at this point would almost certainly require changes to the filibuster, allowing Democrats to act without GOP support.

“Absolutely this increases the pressure to take a very hard look at whether the Senate is an institution that will allow itself to be rendered powerless and dysfunctional,” said Rep. John Sarbanes, a Maryland Democrat who sponsored a voting bill that passed the House in March.

Change won’t be easy. A group of moderate Democratic senators, including Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have ruled out revisions to the filibuster. In an evenly divided Senate, their rejection denies the votes needed to move forward with a procedural change.

Thursday’s ruling was on a case in Sinema’s home state. In an opinion by Justice Samuel Alito, the court reversed an appellate ruling in deciding that Arizona’s regulations — on who can return early ballots for another person and on refusing to count ballots cast in the wrong precinct — are not racially discriminatory.

Sinema assailed the decision in a statement, saying it would “hurt Arizonans’ ability to make their voices heard at the ballot box” and reiterated her support for the bill. Sinema’s spokeswoman Hannah Hurley said the senator’s position remains what she outlined in an op-ed last week, in which Sinema argued eliminating the filibuster to pass the voting bill would weaken the ability of Democrats to stop voting restrictions in the future when they are no longer in the majority.

Democrats, who say the issue is an existential one for democracy and who need the support of voters of color in next year’s midterms, quickly condemned the court’s decision.

“If you believe in open and fair democracy and the principle of one person, one vote, today is one of the darkest days in all of the Supreme Court’s history,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the ruling an “unprecedented assault” that “greenlights the brutal, accelerating campaign of voter suppression.”

Speaking in Florida, President Joe Biden said he would have “much more to say” soon, but largely sidestepped comment.

For their part, Republicans show no sign of willingness to engage with Democrats on the issue.

“The states created the federal government, and it’s not up to Chuck or Nancy or anyone else in Washington, D.C., to tell Arizona or anyone else how they should conduct an election,” Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who was a party in the case, said on Fox News.

Many Republicans other have dismissed a series of recent hearings on the John Lewis bill as “theater.”

“They are using this issue because they see a political opportunity,” said Rep. Mike Johnson, a Louisiana Republican who sits on the House Judiciary Committee. “The more they advance this narrative that it’s us versus them, and oppressors versus the oppressed, and black versus white, it divides the country.”

Questions hang over existing lawsuits challenging voting laws.

While experts generally agree that Thursday’s decision will make legal challenges under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act more difficult, many of the lawsuits pending against GOP-backed laws this year make separate, constitutional claims. So those lawsuits will proceed.

The U.S. Justice Department’s recent lawsuit against Georgia’s new voting law does make a Section 2 challenge, although it was narrowly written and alleges an intent by Republican state lawmakers to discriminate against minority voters. In the Arizona case, the legal challenge centered on whether there was a discriminatory effect of the laws.

Still, advocates of voting rights protections were surprised by the breadth of the ruling.

“This ruling is much worse than we had anticipated,” said Wendy Weiser, an attorney for the Brennan Center for Justice. “This is going to put a lot of pressure on Congress and the White House to pass the voting bills.”

And it could embolden more Republican-led states to pursue further restrictions.

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton, who supports the ruling, said: “States can be confident that they can go full speed ahead to strengthen elections and protect voting rights with security measures such as voter ID and other sensible measures to make it harder to steal elections.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

3 injured in shooting at amusement park near Chicago

GURNEE, Ill. (AP) — Three people were injured late Sunday in a shooting at an amusement park north of Chicago. Three people were hurt in a parking lot outside Six Flags Great America in Gurnee when shots were fired from a vehicle, according to a spokesperson for the park, which is located about 45 miles […]
20 hours ago
A motorist pumps gasoline at United Oil gas station in Los Angeles Friday, Aug. 12, 2022. The avera...
Associated Press

Average US gasoline price falls 45 cents to $4.10 per gallon

CAMARILLO, Calif. (AP) — The average U.S. price of regular-grade gasoline plummeted 45 cents over the past three weeks to $4.10 per gallon. Industry analyst Trilby Lundberg of the Lundberg Survey said Sunday that the continued decline comes as crude oil costs also remain low. “The drop of a dollar per gallon has not been […]
20 hours ago
FILE - Actress Anne Heche poses for a portrait to promote the film, "The Last Word" during the Sund...
Associated Press

Anne Heche, star with troubled life, dies of crash injuries

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Anne Heche, the Emmy-winning film and television actor whose dramatic Hollywood rise in the 1990s and accomplished career contrasted with personal chapters of turmoil, died of injuries from a fiery car crash. She was 53. Heche was “peacefully taken off life support,” spokeswoman Holly Baird said in a statement Sunday night.. […]
20 hours ago
FILE - An iPhone displays the Facebook app in New Orleans, Aug. 11, 2019. Facebook failed to detect...
Associated Press

Strike four: Facebook misses election misinfo in Brazil ads

Facebook failed to detect blatant election-related misinformation in ads ahead of Brazil’s 2022 election, a new report from Global Witness has found, continuing a pattern of not catching material that violates its policies the group describes as “alarming.” The advertisements contained false information about the country’s upcoming election, such as promoting the wrong election date, […]
20 hours ago
A Japanese flag flutters at the Bank of Japan headquarters in Tokyo on July 29, 2022. Japan’s eco...
Associated Press

Japan ekes out growth as consumers splurge amid COVID surge

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s economy grew at an annual rate of 2.2% for the April-June quarter from the previous quarter, the government said Monday, as consumer spending rebounded with COVID-19 restrictions getting gradually lifted. Japan’s gross domestic product, or GDP, the sum of the value of a nation’s products and services, expanded 0.5% from January-March, […]
20 hours ago
Associated Press

Second fatal shooting this month near George Floyd Square

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — One man died and another was seriously hurt in the second fatal shooting this month near the intersection where George Floyd died in police custody more than two years earlier. Minneapolis Police spokesman Officer Garrett Parten said officers found two wounded men with life-threatening injuries Sunday afternoon near the intersection in south […]
20 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
Sanderson Ford

Don’t let rising fuel prices stop you from traveling Arizona this summer

There's no better time to get out on the open road and see what the beautiful state of Arizona has to offer. But if the cost of gas is putting a cloud over your summer vacation plans, let Sanderson Ford help with their wide-range selection of electric vehicles.
Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

Why your student-athlete’s physical should be conducted by a sports medicine specialist

Dr. Anastasi from Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Tempe answers some of the most common questions.
Voting rights ruling increases pressure on Democrats to act