• Dhruti Pattabhi

Voting Rights: From Legislation to State Laws and the Partisan Divide

Updated: Jan 13


Recent voting rights laws have taken effect in Arizona, generating new tension over the historically significant franchise. (Philip Goldsberry/Unsplash)


Having stirred up different opinions and controversies over the ages, the issue of voting rights remains a disputable and sensitive matter. Voting rights are essentially the eligibility of a country’s citizens to participate in said country’s elections. Recently, in the aftermath of the 2020 election, particular laws concerning voter rights have been passed.


Voting Rights in the United States: The Past


In 1776, it was resolved that only white men 21 years and older had the eligibility to vote. In 1868 and 1870, the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments granted voting rights to men of all races. However, poll taxes and other methods of voter discrimination persisted until 1964, with the passage of the Civil Rights Act, which ensured voting rights for American men and women of all races, religions, and educations.


Drastic change occurred in 1965 when these rights were further secured by federal enforcement and the suspension of literacy tests. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 outlawed all forms of voter discrimination — whether by race, gender, color, or membership in a language minority group. This fundamentally protected the voting rights of minorities.


Recent Legislation


As per the Supreme Court case Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, the case for recent laws concerning voting rights was argued on March 2, 2021, and decided on July 1, 2021. The first law primarily states that Arizona voters who vote in-person on Election Day must vote in the designated vicinity to which they reside: if a constituent votes in the incorrect precinct, their vote is immediately discarded. The second law regards Arizona voters who vote by mail. With the exceptions of a postal worker, an elections official, a voter’s caregiver, a family member, and a household member, no other person must deliberately collect an early ballot.


The Partisan Divide


The Democratic National Committee asserts that the newly passed laws disproportionately and adversely affect the state’s minorities. Apart from this, they argue that the laws violate Section II of the Voting Rights Act. The Democratic Committee bases these claims on account of the lack of mail accessibility of certain Native American reservations and Hispanic communities and limited postal services. These communities are sure to rely on other community members to deliver their ballots. These arguments were rejected by the District Court. The court syllabus states that the law “was unlikely to cause ‘a meaningful inequality’ in minority voters’ electoral opportunities and that it had not been enacted with discriminatory intent.” Arizona’s Republican Party and Attorney General argue that the laws cause no direct impediment to minority voting while preserving election integrity, mainly under the account that the laws do not highlight discrimination and apply to all people of Arizona. Overall, the Court justices ruled 6–3, in favor of the laws.


How Does the U.S. Respond?


Needless to say, the solidification of the two recent laws has met strong stances: both backlash and support.


Several federal lawsuits are being filed against states that have enacted laws such as these. Voters in these states are rallying and protesting for better representation, despite the current lack of congressional action to match. Some citizens actively support the laws. Others choose to remain neutral. The final mark, however, is ultimately decided by the United States’ Congress.


 

Sources & Further Reading

https://www.usa.gov/voting-laws#:~:text=The%20Voting%20Rights%20Act%20of,a%20history%20of%20voter%20discrimination.

https://www.history.com/news/voting-rights-timeline

https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/20pdf/19-1257_g204.pdf

https://theconversation.com/supreme-court-blunts-voting-rights-in-arizona-and-potentially-nationwide-in-controversial-ruling-163764

https://www.npr.org/2021/07/03/1012777226/whats-next-for-voting-rights-after-the-supreme-courts-decision