Term-Ending Supreme Court Decision Upholds Arizona Voting Regulations

The Story:

On July 1, as one of its last two decisions announced for the 2020-2021 session, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld certain election regulations in place in the State of Arizona that had been challenged under the Voting Rights Act of 1965.


One provision under challenge was the “out of precinct” policy. A voter may sometimes cast a ballot in the wrong place, as after a move to a new residence: he may go to the polling place for his previous address by mistake. The provision requires election officials to throw out the entirety of a ballot if it is cast at the wrong place. This is controversial because the ballot may include statewide or national offices, such as Governor or President, which which the specific precinct does not matter.

The Democratic National Committee went to court in 2016, asking among other points that the out-of-precinct policy be changed and such votes counted for applicable offices.

The Supreme Court rejected this argument by a 6-3 vote along party lines. All six Justices appointed by a Republican President voted to uphold the law, all three Justices appointed by a Democratic President voted the other way.

The Thing to Know:

Justice Alito, writing for the majority, said that the out-of-precinct policy does not impose an undue burden on any voters, only the burden of having to identify the right polling place and go there to vote. This, Alito said, is ” quintessential example of the usual burdens of voting.”

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