SCOTUS decision on Arizona voter rules could mean trouble for DOJ suit against Georgia

"There's a difference between not liking a law and finding it to legitimately be in violation of the 1965 Voting Rights Act," said Alan Dershowitz.

Published: July 1, 2021 2:42pm

Updated: July 1, 2021 10:40pm

A Supreme Court ruling upholding Arizona voting restrictions could spell trouble for a legal challenge by U.S Attorney General Merrick Garland to a new Georgia election integrity law.

The court ruled Thursday in a 6-3 vote that a set of Arizona voting rules do not violate federal law. Breaking along conservative-liberal ideological lines, the court found that the state's voting policies were not enacted with a racially discriminatory purpose that would have violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act. 

Garland announced announced last week that the Department of Justice will sue Georgia over its new voting law, S.B. 202, claiming the measure's voter ID rules violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prevents states from denying or interfering with the rights of Americans to vote on account of their race. Thursday's SCOTUS decision in the Arizona case is a signal that the high court may not buy Garland's arguments. 

The SCOTUS decision "absolutely" damages the DOJ's case against Georgia," Harvard Professor of Law Emeritus Alan Dershowitz told Just the News.

"If the Arizona voting decision had come down a month ago, I don't think the DOJ would've issued such a broad-based challenge" to the Georgia law, said the constitutional law scholar.

Calling Garland's decision to bring the suit "a mistake," Dershowitz said, "There's a difference between not liking a law and finding it to legitimately be in violation of the 1965 Voting Rights Act."

Last week, Garland described his lawsuit as the "first of many steps" to protect the voting rights of Americans, indicating his intention to challenge several other states that have enacted what the department views as restrictive voting rules. Michigan, for instance, is reportedly a potential target because the state's Republican-led legislature is close to passing a three-bill package aimed at strengthening election integrity by enforcing stricter voter ID requirements for mail-in and in-person voting.

Garland's Friday announcement followed an earlier warning shot from the AG directed at states conducting audits of the 2020 presidential election. Last month, the attorney general — without specifically citing Arizona's ongoing audit of its 2020 election results — said that some of the post-election reviews taking place across the country are "based on disinformation" and employing "abnormal post-election audit methodologies that may put the integrity of the voting process at risk and undermine public confidence in our democracy."

SCOTUS's Thursday decision, however, was its own brand of warning shot, one that jeopardizes Garland's planned legal offensive against state-level GOP voting reform bills and election audits.

The decision "sends a strong signal to the states with regard to controlling election integrity —certainly with regard to things like ballot harvesting, and proper identification at polling places,"  Arizona Republican Rep. Andy Biggs said in a recent interview on the John Solomon Reports podcast.

Biggs said the 6-3 decision by SCOTUS represents the "natural split" of the court, one that hasn't been seen this term as much as was anticipated.

Dershowitz said that while this has been a "balanced term," maybe even a "good one for the liberal justices," Garland must take away from Thursday's ruling that "they don't have the votes" to proceed unchallenged with the Georgia lawsuit.

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