Marion S. Trikosko, Library of Congress

This week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Brnovich v. DNC and Arizona Republican Part v. DNC, a pair of cases challenging some of Arizona's latest efforts to stop non-white people from voting.

And, well ... things aren't looking good.

Thanks to Mitch McConnell, we now have a Supreme Court with a far-right supermajority. And, while SCOTUS has given us a few pleasant surprises over the last years, they aren't about to do that when the issue is voting rights.

Chief Justice John Roberts has, in fact, saved our asses a few times over the last few years — but don't expect him to act all heroic this time around. Letting Black and brown people vote has never been something Roberts approves of. He even seems to hate voting rights even more than women controlling their own bodies, which is another thing he hates a lot!

In 2013, John Roberts literally wrote Shelby County v. Holder, the 21st century's version of Jim Crow. The opinion murdered Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which had required states with a documented history of stopping Black and brown people from voting to get any new voter suppression laws cleared by the feds.

Since then, the states that used to be covered by the VRA — and other states that hate people of color voting and wanted to get in on the fun — have done everything they can do go back to the 1800s. Within five years of the Shelby County decision, states closed almost 1,000 polling places, mostly in predominantly Black counties. Purges of voter rolls became incredibly common in red states, with tens of millions of registered voters removed from the rolls. Voter ID laws became ubiquitous.

Now, our esteemed rightwing SCOTUS also seems ready to gut Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits voting laws that "result[] in a denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen [...] to vote on account of race or color[.]" Because who needs democracy, really?


After Donald Trump's whiny loser baby fit, an attempted insurrection, and nutjobs all over the country who truly believe the election was stolen from them, Republicans everywhere are looking to further restrict voting rights as much as humanly possible. And, judging from how the oral argument went, this case is probably going to put those voter suppression efforts on steroids.

RNC lawyer Michael Carvin (of the GOP's favorite ratfucking law firm, Jones Day), even said the quiet part out loud when Amy Bony Carrot asked why the Arizona Republican Party was involved in the case at all, saying letting people vote "puts us at a competitive disadvantage relative to Democrats."

And why is that? Well,

Politics is a zero sum game, and every extra vote they get through unlawful interpretations of Section 2 hurts us.

Imagine standing up in court (or dialing into Zoom court, as the case may be) and saying a court decision should be overturned because doing so would hurt Democrats. That's what this fucker actually did.

And the highest court in our country may be fine with it.

The two cases center around Arizona voting restrictions designed to suppress the state's Native American and Latino vote.
One of the provisions at issue is a 2016 ban on so-called "ballot harvesting," which makes it a felony to turn in another person's vote for them. It prohibits, for example, collecting ballots at a nursing home or helping a group of people living in a remote area make sure their ballots are received.
Arizona has a large Native population living on rural reservations, where they have limited access to mail and lack traditional mailing addresses. The purpose of this law was to make it harder for them to vote, full stop.
The other provision at issue is a ban on out-of-precinct voting. Previously, if a registered voter showed up at the wrong precinct, she could cast a provisional ballot, and if she was eligible to vote, her votes in the statewide and federal races would be counted. Now, even if the person was eligible to vote in the state or federal elections on the ballot but was in the wrong precinct for local elections, their entire ballot will be tossed.
This is one of the strictest "out of precinct" laws in the country and, again, was intended to screw people over. Another favorite tactic of states like Arizona is to frequently move the polling places in majority-minority communities, to make them harder to find.
But none of that matters to SCOTUS.
John Roberts, always gleeful at the idea of disenfranchising Black and brown people, also took care to repeat GOP talking points about the DANGERS of mail-in voting. Not caring at all about the fact that at least two Arizona legislators SAID they wanted these laws to stop people who weren't Republicans from voting, Roberts chose to ask, instead, whether states should forced "to tolerate" potential voter fraud.
Making the RNC's arguments for it, Roberts also said the overt racial animus shown by at least two lawmakers was NBD, saying "the evidence of racial intent was really quite limited[.]"
Narrator: The evidence of racial intent was not quite limited.

The Arizona Secretary of State, itself, is one of the parties arguing that the laws should be struck down. The state's Latino and Native American populations are exactly who is hurt by these new voter suppression laws — and, like SOS lawyer Jessica Amunson noted, "What Arizona was acting to do was to limit the participation of Hispanics and Native Americans in particular."

Amunson reminded the Court that "Native Americans and Latinos in Arizona rely disproportionately on ballot collection and white voters do not" and emphasized that "the legislative history shows that, in fact, what Arizona was acting to do was to limit the participation of Hispanics and Native Americans, in particular[.]"

But the old, rich, white Chief Justice, who went to a nearly all-white boarding school before attending Harvard for both undergrad and law school, doesn't believe in race discrimination — as in, he doesn't believe it's a thing that really exists. John Roberts dismissed the secretary of state's concerns about laws designed to stop minority communities from voting as "racial proportionality," even asking, "why is that a bad thing when you're talking about electoral procedures?"

The other fascists conservatives on the Court also showed what they're thinking. Justice Samuel Alito, consistently one of the worst three justices, straight-up said that it was fine for voting laws to be discriminatory, because aren't all laws discriminatory, anyway?

is going to make every voting rule vulnerable to attack under Section 2 [...] because people who are poor and less well educated on balance probably will find it more difficult to comply with just about every voting rule than do people who are more affluent and have had the benefit of more education.

He's SO CLOSE to getting the point. So close, but a world away.

The implications of this case will be far-reaching and long-lasting. From the looks of oral arguments, these cases are going to be decided 6-3 in favor of voter disenfranchisement — and probably create terrible precedent that will haunt us for decades to come. The Court seems poised to create a test for Section 2 of the VRA that makes it all-but-impossible to strike down a law for racial discrimination, even if the people who passed that law danced in a circle with signs saying THIS IS FOR RACIST INTENTS AND PURPOSES.

Republicans know they can only win when it's rigged. So, while people like John Roberts may be inclined to throw a bone to the masses every once in a while in the name of "integrity of the Court," they're never going to budge on the big, systemic issues that keep both their party and their demographic in power.

We need to eliminate the filibuster and pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act NOW.

[ Transcript / Audio / Brennan Center ]

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Jamie Lynn Crofts
Jamie Lynn Crofts is sick of your bullshit. When she’s not wrangling cats, she’s probably writing about nerdy legal stuff, rocking out at karaoke, or tweeting about god knows what. Jamie would kindly like to remind everyone that it’s perfectly legal to tell Bob Murray to eat shit.
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