WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court takes up a court fight Tuesday over voting rights in the battleground state of Arizona, and the outcome may affect how the nation’s courts resolve clashes over election laws in dozens of other states.
The case also will be a test of one of the most important civil rights laws — the Voting Rights Act, which the Supreme Court significantly scaled back in 2013.
Two Arizona laws are at issue in the virtual oral arguments before the justices. One requires election officials to reject ballots cast in the wrong precincts. The other concerns voting by mail and provides that only the voter, a family member or a caregiver can collect and deliver a completed ballot.
“Prohibiting unlimited third-party ballot harvesting is a commonsense means of protecting the secret ballot,” the state told the justices in court filings. The out-of-precinct rule is intended to prevent multiple voting, Arizona said.
But Arizona Democrats said the state has a history of switching polling places more often in minority neighborhoods and putting the polls in places intended to cause mistakes. Minorities move more often and are less likely to own homes, resulting in the need to change polling places, Democrats said.
Arizona far outpaces other states in discarding out-of-precinct ballots, rejecting 11 times more than the next-highest state. And minority voters are more likely to need help turning in their ballots, the challengers said. In many states where the practice is legal, community activists offer ballot collection to encourage voting.