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Supreme Court of the United States
March 2, 2021, Argued; July 1, 2021, Decided1
Nos. 19-1257 and 19-1258.
Justice Alito delivered the opinion of the Court.
In these cases, we are called upon for the first [*13] time to apply §2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to regulations that govern how ballots are collected and counted. Arizona law generally makes it very easy to vote. All voters may vote by mail or in person for nearly a month before election day, but Arizona imposes two restrictions that are claimed to be unlawful. First, in some counties, voters who choose to cast a ballot in person on election day must vote in their own precincts or else their ballots will not be counted. Second, mail-in ballots cannot be collected by anyone other than an election official, a mail carrier, or a voter’s family member, household member, or caregiver. After a trial, a District Court upheld these rules, as did a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. But an en banc court, by a divided vote, found them to be unlawful. It relied on the rules’ small disparate impacts on members of minority groups, as well as past discrimination dating back to the State’s territorial days. And it overturned the District Court’s finding that the Arizona Legislature did not adopt the ballot-collection restriction for a discriminatory purpose. We now hold that the en banc court misunderstood and misapplied [*14] §2 and that it exceeded its authority in rejecting the District Court’s factual finding on the issue of legislative intent.
Congress enacted the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, 79 Stat. 437, as amended, 52 U. S. C. §10301 et seq., in an effort to achieve at long last what the Fifteenth Amendment had sought to bring about 95 years earlier: an end to the denial of the right to vote based on race. Ratified in 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment provides in §1 that “[t]he right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Section 2 of the Amendment then grants Congress the “power to enforce [the Amendment] by appropriate legislation.”
Despite the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment, the right of African-Americans to vote was heavily suppressed for nearly a century. States employed a variety of notorious methods, including poll taxes, literacy tests, property qualifications, “‘white primar[ies],’” and “‘grandfather clause[s].’”2 Challenges to some blatant efforts reached this Court and were held to violate the Fifteenth Amendment. See, e.g., Guinn v. United States, 238 U. S. 347, 360-365, 35 S. Ct. 926, 59 L. Ed. 1340 (1915) (grandfather clause); Myers v. Anderson, 238 U. S. 368, 379-380, 35 S. Ct. 932, 59 L. Ed. 1349 (1915) (same); Lane v. Wilson, 307 U. S. 268, 275-277, 59 S. Ct. 872, 83 L. Ed. 1281 (1939) (registration scheme predicated on grandfather clause); Smith v. Allwright, 321 U. S. 649, 659-666, 64 S. Ct. 757, 88 L. Ed. 987 (1944) (white primaries); Schnell v. Davis, 336 U. S. 933, 69 S. Ct. 749, 93 L. Ed. 1093 (1949) (per curiam), affirming 81 F. Supp. 872 (SD Ala. 1949) (test of constitutional knowledge); [*15] Gomillion v. Lightfoot, 364 U. S. 339, 347, 81 S. Ct. 125, 5 L. Ed. 2d 110 (1960) (racial gerrymander). But as late as the mid-1960s, black registration and voting rates in some States were appallingly low. See South Carolina v. Katzenbach, 383 U. S. 301, 313, 86 S. Ct. 803, 15 L. Ed. 2d 769 (1966).
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2021 U.S. LEXIS 3568 *; __ S.Ct. __; 2021 WL 2690267
MARK BRNOVICH, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF ARIZONA, ET AL., PETITIONERS v. DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE, ET AL.; ARIZONA REPUBLICAN PARTY, ET AL., PETITIONERS v. DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE, ET AL.
Notice: The LEXIS pagination of this document is subject to change pending release of the final published version.
Prior History: [*1] ON WRITS OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT
Democratic Nat'l Comm. v. Hobbs, 948 F.3d 989, 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 2470, 2020 WL 414448 (9th Cir. Ariz., Jan. 27, 2020)
Disposition: 948 F. 3d 989, reversed and remanded.
voting, voters, ballot, election, out-of-precinct, voting rights, political process, discriminatory, disparity, polling place, collection, precinct, election day, abridgement, burdens, cast, cases, facially neutral, mail, ballot-collection, courts, ban, state interest, assigned, counted, effects, statistically, vote-dilution, practices, totality of the circumstances
Civil Rights Law, Voting Rights, Voting Rights Act, Failure to Allow Voting, Governments, State & Territorial Governments, Elections, Interference With Voting Rights, Protection of Rights, Vote Dilution, Racial Discrimination, Provisional Ballots, Local Governments, Enforcement Actions, Remedies, Constitutional Law, Elections, Terms & Voting, Race-Based Voting Restrictions, Federal Government, US Postal Service, Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, Clearly Erroneous Review, Business & Corporate Law, Establishment, Elements, Application of Agency Law Principles, Legislatures