The Brewing Voting Rights Clash

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Republicans have been talking about voter fraud, and attempting to limit access to the ballot, for many years. How much is the current surge in restrictive voting legislation related to Donald Trump and the conspiracy theories he pushed last year, during and after the campaign?

Many of these bills are fueled by the same rhetoric and grievances that were driving the challenges to the 2020 election. In addition to expressly referencing the big lie about widespread voter fraud and that Trump actually won the election, they’re targeting the methods of voting that the Trump campaign was complaining about. So, for example, the single biggest subject of regressive voter legislation in this session — roughly half the bills — is mail voting.

That is new this year. We’ve been tracking efforts to restrict access to voting for a very long time, and absentee voting has not been the subject of legislative attack before. It was the politicization of that issue in the 2020 election, principally by the Trump campaign and allies, that I think helped elevate that issue to a grievance level that would cause it to be the subject of legislative attack.

The Supreme Court today heard oral arguments in a challenge to the Voting Rights Act, brought by the attorney general of Arizona. What is at stake in that case?

On a narrow level, the case is challenging two provisions of an Arizona law that made it harder for voters of color in Arizona to participate in the election process, but the case’s significance is much broader. The plaintiffs and the Republican National Committee are actually arguing to dramatically scale back the strength of the nationwide protections against voting discrimination in the federal Voting Rights Act.

About eight years ago, the Supreme Court gutted the most powerful provision of the Voting Rights Act, the preclearance provision, which applied to states with a history of discrimination. That led to disastrous outcomes across the country, but it did not invalidate the nationwide protections against discrimination in voting, Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. So this is the next shoe, which I hope will not drop.

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