Democrats to take on Supreme Court after justices uphold Arizona election laws
When the Supreme Court concluded its most recent term by upholding two controversial Arizona voting laws, Democrats vowed to override the 6-3 decision that split the court’s conservatives and liberals along ideological lines.
In the case, Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee , the court’s conservatives ruled that the state’s ballot harvesting ban, as well as its requirement that Election Day ballots be cast in a voter’s home precinct, was not intended to be racially discriminatory. The court’s liberals disagreed sharply, claiming the laws had a disparate effect on minority communities and violated federal law.
The decision similarly polarized elected Democrats and Republicans. For instance, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said he was pleased with the win because it set a precedent for ensuring election integrity in future disputes.
“We have to maintain confidence in the process and of the integrity of the results,” Brnovich told the Washington Examiner , commending Justice Samuel Alito for his strong endorsement of the laws in his majority opinion.
Many Democrats took the opposite position. President Joe Biden condemned the decision in a statement, calling it an attack on the “beating heart of our democracy.” Biden also called out the court’s conservatives during a Tuesday speech, in which he also spoke against a raft of Republican-led state election laws drawn up after the 2020 presidential election.
Biden listed the Supreme Court’s decision as one of many attacks on the country, lumping it with 2020 election challenges and the Jan. 6 riot inside the Capitol. Biden urged Congress to fight against the court’s decision, saying the case demanded a legislative response.
“It puts the burden on Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act to its intended strength,” Biden said, adding he would sign such legislation into law.
Many Democrats in Congress have already incorporated the results of the case, which addressed Section 2 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, into legislation to push back against stricter state election laws.
After the court’s decision came down, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler told the House to reconsider the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, a piece of legislation aimed at overriding a 2013 Supreme Court decision. That decision, Shelby County v. Holder , restricted Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act and gave states more freedom to regulate their own election laws.
Nadler said that after Brnovich , he would update his bill. House Democrats on Friday will hold a hearing to discuss what rewrites might look like.
Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, who wrote the Senate version of the same bill, said he would reintroduce the act with similar updates. The Senate will hold comparable hearings on Wednesday. Neither Nadler nor Leahy responded to requests for comment.
There are a number of ways Democrats could try to override the Supreme Court’s decision, said Nicholas Stephanopoulos, a law professor at Harvard University. That could mean disregarding some of the factors Alito put into his opinion while codifying the factors Justice Elena Kagan stressed in her dissent.
Chief among these, he said, are Kagan’s contentions that voting laws should take into account whether they produce disparate results for different minority groups and whether the laws are necessary to further an important state interest.
Kagan, whose dissent earned much praise from Democrats at all levels of government, took direct aim at Alito and the other court conservatives. Comparing the majority’s decision to the infamous Dred Scott v. Sandford case, she said the court was systematically stripping minorities’ right to vote.
“What is tragic here is that the Court has (yet again) rewritten — in order to weaken — a statute that stands as a monument to America’s greatness, and protects against its basest impulses,” Kagan wrote. “What is tragic is that the Court has damaged a statute designed to bring about ‘the end of discrimination in voting.’”
The likelihood of any legislation landing on Biden's desk is slim because Republicans have united in opposition to both the John Lewis Act and the For the People Act, a Democratic bill aimed at sweeping electoral reforms.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell dismissed the push as "an assault on the fundamental idea that states, not the federal government, should decide how to run their own elections."