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Editorial: The court and the vote — The Supreme Court gets voting rights wrong

Editorial: The court and the vote — The Supreme Court gets voting rights wrong

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Heightened security measures are in place around the Supreme Court, days after a violent mob of President Donald Trump's supporters swarmed the U.S. Capitol, disrupting Congress' vote to certify the 2020 election results, on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, in Washington, D.C..

Heightened security measures are in place around the Supreme Court, days after a violent mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters swarmed the U.S. Capitol, disrupting Congress’ vote to certify the 2020 election results, on Jan. 9, 2021, in Washington, D.C.

Thursday, the Supreme Court issued two significant rulings on the sanctity and openness of our democratic republic, doing so along ideological lines, with the conservative 6-3 majority twice prevailing. It got one decision very wrong and one just right.

First, the majority — which goes to great lengths to claim to care deeply about the precise text of laws passed by Congress — woefully and willfully misinterpreted the Voting Rights Act to uphold two Arizona ballot-casting restrictions. One invalidates otherwise legitimate votes cast out of one’s precinct, even when some of the votes on a citizen’s ballot are for president, senator, governor and other officials on all ballots regardless of precinct. The other restricts who is allowed to transport early ballots to drop-boxes, election offices or polling places.

Statistics and experience clearly show the first provision disproportionately invalidates the votes of Black and Latino voters, and in a statistically significant way; the second provision makes it relatively burdensome for Arizona’s Native American population, who often live in far-flung rural areas far from mail carriers, to vote. The absolute numbers are small and no intent to discriminate is here established, but the Voting Rights Act cares not about total numbers, nor about intent; Congress wrote it to prevent rules that result in comparative discrimination.

In her eloquent dissent, Justice Elena Kagan eviscerated the majority for effectively rewriting the law by creating improvised legal tests that will inevitably open the door to new voting restrictions that put roadblocks in the path of historically marginalized communities.

The second ruling struck down a California law requiring all charitable organizations report to the state attorney general the names and addresses of their major donors, similar to a provision in Democrats’ federal For the People Act. The high court found that because the rule is sweeping, rather than carefully tailored to advance a specific governmental purpose, it invites harassment of those who wish to engage in anonymous charitable giving, thereby violating First Amendment freedoms. We concur.

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