It has never been easier to vote in America. So why the Left’s meltdown?
July 23, 2021
On the last day of its term, the Supreme Court handed down a resounding victory for free and fair elections. In Brnovich v. DNC, the court upheld two Arizona election integrity laws against a lawsuit from the Democratic Party alleging violations of the Voting Rights Act, ending a years long quest by liberals to weaponize the VRA against voting safeguards they oppose.
A group of people posing for the camera© Provided by Washington Examiner
In response, progressives have gone off the deep end. They are conflating a defeat for Democrats with an assault on democracy itself. President Joe Biden himself mounted the stage in Philadelphia to give a preposterously demagogic speech comparing the court’s decision to slavery, KKK violence, and other “vicious” attacks on voting rights.
And having manufactured the outrage, liberals are using it to push a politicized agenda that includes undermining popular voting safeguards nationwide with legislation such as H.R. 1.
The truth of the Brnovich decision, like almost everything that touches on voting, is far more prosaic than rabble-rousing activists would have us believe. The Democrats’ case was a weak one, so weak in fact that even the Biden administration told the court earlier this year that “neither Arizona measure violates” the Voting Rights Act. One wishes the president would listen to his lawyers as well as the justices did.
The case challenged an Arizona law that bans vote trafficking by political operatives, a practice so prone to abuse that an election reform commission led by former President Jimmy Carter admonished states to ban it, and another policy requiring that in-person voters show up at an assigned precinct. Both rules are commonplace: A majority of states require people to vote at an assigned location, and at least 24 states ban or regulate vote trafficking.
Nevertheless, the Democratic Party alleged that each violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which bars discrimination in voting. Democrats argued that the laws created disparate burdens on minority voters and even that the Arizona Legislature had banned ballot trafficking for deliberately discriminatory reasons.
But the evidence was lacking, and the district court rejected those claims entirely. Only the oft-overruled 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the Democratic National Committee. It held that neutral voting laws violate the VRA if they adversely affect “more than a de minimis” number of voters.
Had the 9th Circuit’s ruling been allowed to stand, the Voting Rights Act would have been transformed from a tool to fight discrimination into a heckler’s veto over election laws. Since every law affects different people differently, any election law — no matter how long-standing, routine, or popular — could be overturned as “discriminatory.” That would help the progressive project to roll back voting safeguards nationwide undemocratically, an effort that has increasingly leaned on Section 2 claims, but for us mere voters, it would be a recipe for chaos.
Based on the post-ruling rhetoric, most activists and politicians on the Left would surely take us down that path. Thankfully, the justices recognized that the plain language of the Voting Rights Act required a different course.
Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the 6-3 majority, ruled that courts must judge whether elections are “equally open to participation” by minority voters and whether they have an “equal opportunity” to vote. In assessing this, courts must take a broad view of elections in a state that considers the “totality of the circumstances.”
In Philadelphia, Biden labeled this decision part of the broad, “autocratic” assault on the right to vote. Hardly.
It has never been easier to vote in America, and the Voting Rights Act remains a powerful tool to fight genuinely discriminatory laws or measures that create unusual burdens or significant disparities. But liberal groups wanted to mold it into a political weapon to jettison popular, nondiscriminatory voting safeguards undemocratically. After Brnovich, that is not likely to happen.
With their legal avenues limited and their partisan election overhaul stalled in Congress, liberals have no choice but to take their case to the public. But people want voter integrity laws.
Three-fourths of voters back photo ID laws, including huge majorities of black and Hispanic voters. Activists and politicians have tried for a decade to move the needle but failed so spectacularly that now, leading figures such as Rep. Jim Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat, and Georgia activist Stacey Abrams are desperately claiming they are for ID laws, even after years spent opposing them.
Democrats know they cannot win the debate over voting integrity on the merits, so they resort to smears and misinformation instead. Biden’s speech is only the latest shameful example of the cynical hyperbole used to stifle debate, divide the country, and demonize opponents.
Voter integrity laws don’t damage democracy. Rhetoric like that does.
.Jason Snead is executive director of the Honest Elections Project.