In Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee and the consolidated case of Arizona Republican Party v. Democratic National Committee, the Supreme Court will address issues raised under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the Fifteenth Amendment. Under Section 2—which restates and expands the protections of the Fifteenth Amendment—”no voting qualification or prerequisite to voting or standard, practice or procedure” may be imposed in a manner that is intentionally discriminatory or has a disparate impact on a racial or language minority.

In this case, the DNC challenged two of Arizona’s voting procedures: discarding out-of-precinct provisional votes where the ballot itself was filled out properly and disallowing third parties to collect and deliver completed vote-by-mail ballots. The DNC argued the provisional ballot rule has a disparate impact on African American, Native American, and Hispanic citizens and the ban on third party delivery was enacted with discriminatory intent. On appeal, the Arizona Republican Party challenges the Ninth Circuit’s finding of discriminatory intent and argues that race neutral and generally applicable voting laws which offer all citizens an equal opportunity to vote do not violate Section 2. Although Arizona won at the District Court level and a three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit affirmed, the Ninth Circuit reheard en banc and reversed, finding the District Court clearly erred.

— Professor Derek Muller, Professor of Law at the University of Iowa College of Law

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