By: Mike Arnone
In July, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Brnovich v. DNC, arguably its most significant voting rights decision since Shelby County v. Holder in 2013. Two Arizona election restrictions were at issue in Brnovich, but the Court’s holding will have far-reaching consequences beyond the Grand Canyon State.
The restrictions at the heart of Brnovich prohibited out-of-precinct ballots from being counted and criminalized the collection of ballots for delivery to polling places, a common practice sometimes called “ballot harvesting.” In a 6-3 majority opinion written by Justice Alito, the Court upheld both provisions under Section Two of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA). The majority ruled that Section Two of the VRA could only be used to invalidate voting restrictions that place “substantial and disproportionate burdens on minority voters.” Because Arizona provided multiple ways to vote, “any burden associated with one option cannot be evaluated without also taking into account the other available means.” Burdens on voting, then, must be evaluated by the totality of the circumstances.