News Release

Supreme Court “Drives a Stake Through the Heart of the Voting Rights Act”

MARJORIE COHN, marjorielegal@gmail.com@marjoriecohn
Cohn, professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and former president of the National Lawyers Guild, recently wrote the piece “Supreme Court Drives a Stake Through the Heart of the Voting Rights Act.”

She writes: “Divided strictly along ideological lines, the Supreme Court construed what was left of the historic Voting Rights Act (VRA) to uphold two Arizona voter suppression laws that civil rights organizations had challenged for disproportionately burdening voters of color. This decision sends a dangerous signal to states that the courts are likely to uphold their voter suppression laws that make it harder for people of color to vote.

“In Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, the Court’s six right-wingers ruled, over the dissent of the three liberals, that Arizona’s ‘out of precinct policy’ and ‘ballot harvesting’ provision did not violate Section 2 of the VRA. Section 2 forbids any voting procedure that ‘results in a denial or abridgment of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race.’ …

“’In recent months, State after State has taken up or enacted legislation erecting new barriers to voting,’ [Elena] Kagan wrote. ‘Those laws shorten the time polls are open, both on Election Day and before. They impose new prerequisites to voting by mail, and shorten the windows to apply for and return mail ballots. They make it harder to register to vote, and easier to purge voters from the rolls. Two laws even ban handing out food or water to voters standing in line.’

“The ball is in Congress’s court. Two federal voter protection bills are pending, the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. In addition, the Judiciary Act of 2021 would increase the number of Supreme Court justices from nine to 13. That could provide an opportunity to dilute the right-wing agenda of the current six members of the Court who voted to open the floodgates of voter suppression legislation.”