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Supreme Court Upholds AZ Election Laws in Blow to Voting Rights

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Friday, July 2, 2021   

PHOENIX -- In a landmark decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld a pair of Arizona "election security" laws that many experts believe will suppress votes in the next election.

In a six-to-three conservative-liberal split, the justices upheld Arizona laws requiring voters to cast a ballot only in their assigned precinct, and making it illegal to collect ballots and drop them off at an elections office.

The laws had been struck down in lower courts, but the Supreme Court voted to uphold them.

Josh Sellers, associate professor of law for the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, said the decision could embolden other state legislatures to pass more laws aimed at voter suppression.

"There are these laws at issue in this case, but there's all the other prospective laws that are on the horizon, so we have to kind of wait and see what other laws are implemented before the next election," Sellers cautioned. "But there's certainly the possibility that these laws threaten to, I think, decrease voter turnout. That concerns me."

Sellers, who teaches voting-rights law, said lower courts ruled that the Arizona laws appeared to be aimed at making voting more difficult for people of color. Republicans said their goal in passing stricter laws is to make sure elections are secure.

Sellers believes the ruling is a blow to states trying to broaden voting rights, and a green light to legislatures passing laws that make it harder to vote.

"If I was a state legislator reading this opinion today, I would feel fairly comfortable that I would not have to worry about losing a Voting Rights Act lawsuit," Sellers remarked.

Sellers added it's now up to Congress to pass a federal voting rights bill to set basic elections rules that all states must follow.

"There is a bill that's under consideration, named after the late Congressman John Lewis, that would restore the pre-clearance regime that used to be in effect in a number of states, including here in Arizona, that would require states to get preapproval before enacting voting laws and regulations."

Since the November election, more than a dozen states have passed laws that restrict voter access to the polls. Sellers believes many will be challenged in the courts before the 2022 election, but this week's ruling will make those cases harder to win.


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