In a dissenting opinion that she wrote in a newly decided court case regarding voting restrictions in Arizona, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan called out recent steps that Republicans in positions of state-level power around the country have taken to essentially make it more difficult to vote. Republicans have cast their efforts under the guise of election security concerns, but no legitimate evidence of election integrity issues in last year’s races has ever emerged. Kagan explicitly suggested that some of the GOP’s recent voter suppression moves could be in violation of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which for decades has provided a framework for election access in the United States.
In the case for which Kagan offered her dissent, the conservative majority on the court opted to leave restrictive election guidelines in place in Arizona. Discussing broader issues, Kagan pointedly observed as follows:
‘In recent months, State after State has taken up or enacted legislation erecting new barriers to voting… Those laws shorten the time polls are open, both on Election Day and before. They impose new prerequisites on voting by mail, and shorten the window to apply for and return mail ballots. They make it harder to register to vote, and easier to purge voters from the rolls. Two laws even ban handing out food of water to voters standing in line. Some of these restrictions may be lawful under the Voting Rights Act. But chances are that some have the kind of impact the Act was designed to prevent–that they make the political process less open to minority voters than to others.’
— Anthony Michael Kreis (@AnthonyMKreis) July 1, 2021
The Justice Department, as currently led by Attorney General Merrick Garland, has actually filed a lawsuit against Georgia authorities over the suppressive election restrictions recently signed into law in that state. Georgia is one of two states — the other being Florida — where recently enacted election guidelines include restrictions on giving food and water to voters standing in line at polling places, no matter how long the waits. The Georgia restrictions also include a new ban on mobile polling places, which were used last year in Fulton County, which includes Atlanta and has a sizable Black population. The Justice Department lawsuit alleges that Georgia authorities enacted the new restrictions “with knowledge of the disproportionate effect that numerous provisions, both singly and together, would have on Black voters’ ability to participate in the political process on an equal basis with white voters.”