From NBC News Online:
Supreme Court justices asked skeptical questions Tuesday about Arizona election laws in a case that has emerged as an important test of the Voting Rights Act.
The case is about whether two state laws violate Section 2 of the act: One blocks the counting of ballots cast in the wrong precinct, and another prohibits anyone other than a family member or caregiver from collecting and delivering a voter’s absentee ballot.
On one side is the state of Arizona and Republicans, who want to keep the strict laws on the books and argue they prevent fraud. And on the other side are Democrats, who want the laws stricken and argue the rules prevent voters, particularly minorities, from accessing the ballot.
The voting restrictions are being fought in a state where Republicans have dominated local and national races for generations but where recently Democrats have gained traction and won both U.S. Senate seats and the presidential contest last year. The outcome of the case could have far-reaching implications for voting laws in other states, too.
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Amy Coney Barrett, two Republican appointees and potentially pivotal votes in the case, appeared to be wrestling with the arguments as they asked tough questions of lawyers on both sides.
Roberts asked the Arizona GOP lawyer, who is defending the laws, why it’s “a bad thing” for election procedures to seek “racial proportionality.”
Later, he pressed the Democrats’ lawyer to define what it would take in their opinion to make a law unacceptable. “What if the provision results in a 1 percent decline in participation by minority voters — is that substantial enough?” he asked.
Barrett told Arizona’s state lawyer that there were “some contradictions” in his argument and that his task was to show why the changes in laws preserved equal “opportunity” for white and nonwhite voters.
But later, she appeared torn about whether Arizona’s laws cross the line. “There’s a difficulty that the statutory language and its lack of clarity presents in trying to figure out when something crosses from an inconvenience to a burden,” Barrett said.
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