Albany Times Union

The Supreme Court gets voting rights wrong

- The following editorial ran in the New York Daily News:

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 ballotcast­ing 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 farflung 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.

The court’s conservati­ve majority — which claims to care deeply about the precise text of laws passed by Congress — woefully and willfully misinterpr­eted the Voting Rights Act.

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