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Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Stacey Abrams Has No Time For Trump

A New Form of Jim Crow: Ari Berman on the GOP’s Anti-Democratic Assault on Voting Rights | Democracy Now!

"A New Form of Jim Crow: Ari Berman on the GOP’s Anti-Democratic Assault on Voting Rights

The Republican-led House in Georgia has passed a sweeping bill to make it harder to vote, in a move aimed to prevent Democrats from winning future elections. The bill limits access to absentee ballots, limits weekend early voting hours and curbs ballot drop boxes, among other provisions. Across the U.S., Republican lawmakers have introduced more than 250 bills in 43 states aimed at restricting voting access. Ari Berman, author and reporter for Mother Jones, says Republicans are “breaking democracy” with their push to restrict voting. “The Republican Party has no interest in appealing to a majority of Americans. Instead, they are doubling down on anti-democratic tactics so they can get a minority of votes but wield a majority of power,” says Berman.

AMY GOODMAN: In Georgia, the Republican-led House passed a sweeping bill Monday to make it harder to vote, in a move aimed at preventing Democrats from winning future elections. Republican lawmakers introduced the legislation after record voter turnout led to Joe Biden beating Donald Trump in November and Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff winning runoff elections in January, giving Democrats control of the U.S. Senate. The Georgia bill limits access to absentee ballots, limits weekend early voting hours, curbs ballot drop boxes, among other provisions.

On Monday, Georgia Democratic Congressmember Jasmine Clark blasted her Republican colleagues.

REP. JASMINE CLARK: Men lie. Women lie. Numbers don’t. The numbers are clear. HB 531 is textbook voter suppression. This bill reduces, restricts and limits every single aspect of our elections. …

And make no mistake: While the suppressive actions of this bill will harm Black and Brown voters, all voters, including the ones that support your team, will be affected. As we saw in the last election, undermining absentee voting cost Trump over 20,000 votes across the state. Add this to the fact that this bill is meant to placate the same crowd that believes the big lie of voter fraud, and they don’t trust the Dominion voting machines anyway, you will find yourselves in a conundrum. This bill is cutting off your nose to spite your face. Instead of reducing, restricting and limiting our elections, we should be in this chamber working to make voting more accessible.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Georgia Democratic state Representative Jasmine Clark.

Across the United States, Republican lawmakers have introduced more than 250 bills in 43 states to restrict voting access. This comes as the Supreme Court is hearing a major case today about Arizona’s election laws that could result in the further weakening of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, Democratic lawmakers are pushing two separate bills to protect voting rights: H.R. 1, the For the People Act, and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act.

We go now to Ari Berman, author of Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America, reporter for Mother Jones, where his article in the March/April issue of the magazine is headlined “The Insurrection Was Put Down. The GOP Plan for Minority Rule Marches On: How Republicans are breaking democracy.”

Ari, explain.

ARI BERMAN: Good morning, Amy.

Well, we’re seeing it all across the country, how Republicans are breaking democracy. They are weaponizing Trump’s big lie to try to pass 250 new restrictions on voting in 43 states, which would be the biggest rollback of voting rights in decades. They are pushing extreme gerrymandering to try to keep power in the states and to try to take back the House in 2022. They are using the filibuster, so that 41 GOP senators, representing just 21% of the country, can block everything from a $15 minimum wage to legislation to restore the Voting Rights Act.

So, over and over and over, we’re seeing that the Republican Party has no interest in appealing to a majority of Americans. Instead, they are doubling down on anti-democratic tactics so they can get a minority of votes but wield a majority of power. And that’s a very, very dangerous phenomenon for American democracy.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Ari, I wanted to ask you — ironically, the pandemic helped to expand the voting accessibility for millions of Americans, and I think it was, in part, responsible for the huge turnout, especially the universal mail-in ballots and the extension of voting times. What do you think are the key issues that folks who want to continue to expand ballot access should be focusing on right now in terms of the reforms that Republicans or the rollbacks the Republicans are trying to institute?

ARI BERMAN: That’s absolutely right, Juan. I think one of the reasons we had such high voter turnout in November was because people had more options to vote than ever before. People could vote by mail in more states than ever before. People could vote early in person, and people could vote on Election Day like they traditionally do. And giving people all of those options really helped increase voter turnout.

And that’s exactly what Republicans want to roll back. They are trying to roll back the voting methods that they believe that Democrats used the most in 2020. So, yes, they are targeting mail voting. They are trying to get rid of universal vote by mail. They are trying to restrict mail ballot drop boxes in states like Georgia.

But they’re also going after in-person voting, which goes to show you this has nothing to do with election integrity, because at the same time they’re getting rid of mail voting, they’re also trying to get rid of things like early voting, that make it easier for people to vote, no matter which party they represent — in Georgia, for example, trying to get rid of weekend voting and Sunday voting, when Black churches hold Souls to the Polls voter mobilization drives. Black voters in Georgia are 30% of the electorate but made up 37% of Sunday voters.

So, this is really a new form of Jim Crow, because they are targeting the voting methods that were used the most by Black voters in states like Georgia, that led to record turnout, that helped flip Georgia blue and elect two Democratic senators. And those very voting methods that led to higher turnout, those are the things that are on the chopping block right now.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And I wanted to ask you about the hearing before the Supreme Court today in oral arguments on a challenge to a pair of Arizona voting policies, again, that make it harder for people to vote. Could you talk about what those policies are and what the likelihood of the court’s ruling on this?

ARI BERMAN: The case centers around two restrictions on voting in Arizona: a restriction that throws out ballots if they’re cast in the wrong precinct, even though those votes would still be valid for statewide offices, and a restriction on the collection of ballots. This disproportionately harms voters of color. Voters of color were twice as likely as white voters to have their votes thrown out for being cast in the wrong precinct. And voters of color, particularly Native American voters and Hispanic voters, are more likely to rely on ballot collection, because they live in remote areas that don’t have regular access to the mail, so they rely on people to drop their ballot off for them.

The case is bigger than that, though. It’s not just challenging two restrictions on voting in Arizona. It’s really challenging the remaining parts of the Voting Rights Act. Remember, in 2013, the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act and ruled that states with a long history of discrimination no longer had to approve their voting changes with the federal government. But it left in place a part of the Voting Rights Act, Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, that apply nationwide, that could challenge discriminatory voting laws after they were passed. Now the Supreme Court could weaken that part of the law, as well, and that would make it functionally impossible for minority voters to get protection under the Voting Rights Act at a time when new voter suppression laws are proliferating around the country. And this is what’s so dangerous. We need a strong Voting Rights Act more than ever right now, given the spread of voter suppression. But, in fact, the Supreme Court may say that the Voting Rights Act is practically nonexistent, at a time when voter suppression is spreading all across the country.

AMY GOODMAN: Ari Berman, talk about the record of the chief justice, John Roberts, on this.

ARI BERMAN: John Roberts has been trying to weaken the Voting Rights Act for over 40 years. When he was a young lawyer in the Reagan Justice Department, he led the fight to weaken Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which is the part of the Voting Rights Act that’s at issue in this Arizona case. Then, 30 years later, when he became chief justice of the Supreme Court, he gutted the Voting Rights Act and ruled that states like Georgia and Arizona don’t have to approve their voting changes with the federal government anymore.

Interestingly enough, he pointed to the remaining section of the Voting Rights Act as a reason to get rid of one section of it. Well, now they’re trying to get rid of that other section that Roberts said was still relevant. So, this was the plan all along, to try to weaken the Voting Rights Act step by step, so that Republicans could pass even more egregious voter suppression efforts, so that voters of color can no longer look to the court and can no longer look to the Supreme Court for protection. And this would be a historic rollback of the country’s most important voting rights law and a really radical transformation — for the worse — of American democracy.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the pushback, the movement organizing? I think of Stacey Abrams, I mean, voter rights leader in Georgia, who was just warning we’re talking about, if there isn’t federal legislation, state by state deciding whether there is total — whether there is this lack of access for voting for people of color. But she pointed out, until now, actually, Republicans have benefited from expanded access. It only recently turned around. Can you explain that?

ARI BERMAN: Well, I think it’s true, if you look at mail voting, for example. Before 2020, mail voting was used by equal numbers in terms of Democrats and Republicans, or even more by Republicans in a lot of places, like Georgia and Arizona, because Republican voters are older and more rural, so they rely on mail voting more than many Democrats do, who are younger and live in more urban areas. And so, this attack on mail voting is incredibly shortsighted.

You also look at early voting. Yes, Democrats used early voting in higher numbers than Republicans in a lot of states, but a lot of Republicans used early voting, too. In Georgia, in the January 5th runoff, it was the first time that Democrats outnumbered Republicans in early voting, meaning that Republicans outnumbered Democrats in early voting in every previous election in Georgia.

And so, there’s going to be a tremendous amount of collateral damage here for Republicans. They’re betting that they are going to disenfranchise more Democrats than Republicans, but there’s no doubt about it that they’re also going to disenfranchise some of their own voters. One-point-three million voters in Georgia used no-excuse absentee voting, which they want to get rid of. That includes 450,000 Republicans. If I’m a Republican official, I’m a little concerned about the fact that I’m trying to eliminate a method of voting that nearly half a million my own voters used in the last election.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Ari, I wanted to ask you — the Senate will have a full vote today on Merrick Garland’s nomination for attorney general. He would be the one who would be defending and implementing the Voting Rights Act. Your thoughts in terms of Merrick Garland on this issue?

ARI BERMAN: Well, I think the Biden Justice Department has signaled that it will be aggressive in enforcing the existing provisions of the Voting Rights Act, not just Merrick Garland, but they have nominated some extremely capable people in other positions of the Justice Department. Kristen Clarke, who is a fantastic civil rights lawyer, would head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, which oversees the Voting Rights Act. Vanita Gupta, another fantastic civil rights lawyer, would be the number three person in the Justice Department. So I think the Biden administration has signaled they will be aggressive in enforcing the Voting Rights Act.

The problem is the Voting Rights Act is weakened and could be weaker. And that’s why it’s so important that Democrats in Congress pass federal legislation protecting the right to vote. The For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act are two of the most important pieces of federal legislation for voting rights that we’ve seen since the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. And I think if you just rely on the conservative-dominated courts, it’s going to be a very rough road for voting rights. But if they pass expansive federal legislation protecting the right to vote, it becomes a lot easier for voters to seek protection.

AMY GOODMAN: So, finally, we just have 20 seconds, but Louis DeJoy, the major Republican donor who is postmaster general, what’s happening with him and Biden — what control he has over what the mail service has to do with voting?

ARI BERMAN: Well, Biden nominated three new members of the Post Office Board of Governors. The Board of Governors can remove Louis DeJoy. If these three nominees are confirmed, Biden would have a majority of postal governors, who could remove DeJoy from office. So, DeJoy’s days are probably numbered. At the very least, there’s going to be a lot of accountability for him, that there wasn’t. And more than likely, he is going to be removed as postmaster general once Biden gets a majority of Postal Service governors.

AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you so much for being with us, Ari Berman, author of Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America. We’ll link to your Mother Jones piece headlined “The Insurrection Was Put Down. The GOP Plan for Minority Rule Marches On.”

Coming up, we speak to Dr. Oni Blackstock about her call to lower the age cutoff for vaccine eligibility for Black Americans. Stay with us."

A New Form of Jim Crow: Ari Berman on the GOP’s Anti-Democratic Assault on Voting Rights | Democracy Now!

Up to 18 US states haven’t prioritized Covid vaccines for homeless, study finds Phased distribution plans in some states do not name population as a priority while CDC recognizes it as high risk

Up to 18 US states haven’t prioritized Covid vaccines for homeless, study finds

‘Phased distribution plans in some states do not name population as a priority while CDC recognizes it as high risk

As many as 18 states in the US have not specifically prioritized the homeless community in their plans for distributing Covid-19 vaccines, despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognizing the population as particularly high risk when it comes to the virus, a study has found.

Research conducted by the National Academy for State Health Policy, a non-partisan forum of policymakers, focused on people living in homeless shelters and found that the phased distribution plans in such states as Maryland, Illinois and Minnesota did not explicitly name that community as a priority population.

Donald Whitehead, the executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, explained that homeless people often don’t have access to medical care, necessities for protection against the virus, such as masks, nor the ability to quarantine if infected. They may also have such underlying conditions as diabetes and asthma, which could put them at higher risk for severe illness from the virus.

“If we leave up to 3.5 million people – because that’s how many people are homeless in America – that many people being left without vaccinations or waiting until the very end, we’re not going to get through this pandemic, it’s going to continue to perpetuate itself, because we have so many people that haven’t gotten the needed care,” he told the Guardian.

The academy’s findings initially came from the plans each state submitted to the CDC last fall, but have since been updated based on the latest guidance on each states’ website, most recently on 26 February.

The chart includes such states as Montana and South Dakota, which prioritize groups such as individuals in congregate settings and those with high-risk medical conditions, but do not specifically highlight the homeless population. It also includes Louisiana, which, while its website states that those who work in homeless shelters will be eligible for a vaccine in its next phase, does not highlight people experiencing homelessness.

Jill Rosenthal, the senior program director at the National Academy for State Health Policy, said it is worth noting that with federal guidelines and vaccine supplies continuing to evolve, every state has seen some movement in their distribution plans. And as such, more changes could be coming.

Wisconsin, for example, initially did not highlight the homeless community in its distribution phases, and now has added those living in homeless shelters and transitional housing, Rosenthal explained.

Last week, Oregon’s governor, Kate Brown, also announced that the state would be including individuals experiencing homelessness in the next Covid-19 vaccine distribution phase, which starts at the end of March.

Currently, Rosenthal explained, only a handful of states have actually started vaccinating people who are experiencing homelessness, including Connecticut and Massachusetts. She said it will be important for those states that haven’t started this work “to learn from other states that are already vaccinating this population about best practices, so that they can more effectively reach those in shelters and those living on the street”.

Last week, the National Health Care for the Homeless Council sent a letter to governors and state and local health authorities highlighting the urgency of giving “priority status to people experiencing homelessness, especially individuals living in homeless shelters, encampments and other congregate settings”.

It added: “Failure to immediately prioritize people who are homeless leaves a highly vulnerable population unprotected, compounds racial inequities, and undermines public health efforts to stop the spread of Covid-19 in local communities.”

Don L Gardner, 63, has been homeless in Washington DC for the past month and a half, after losing his job as a shoe repairman. He is diabetic and asthmatic and stays with his mom or in his car because he’s wary about staying in shelters due to the pandemic. He said he is still waiting to get the vaccine and would like to see others experiencing homelessness prioritized when it comes to this distribution.

He said: “The homeless population is a forgotten population, an invisible population and they should be recognized as human beings and recognized as a population that needs that vaccine because they’re dying off just like the other populations are.”

On Jan. 6 came the white supremacists. Now comes the whitewash

Opinion: On Jan. 6 came the white supremacists. Now comes the whitewash.

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“FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday to answer questions about the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, told the lawmakers what should be obvious to all: that “militia violent extremists” and “racially motivated extremists” were behind the insurrection, and that there is no evidence of “fake Trump supporters” or “antifa” having any role in the attack, as Republican officials have suggested. In general, the Trump-appointed Wray testified, white supremacists are the “biggest chunk” of the domestic terrorism threat and “the most lethal.”

But to hear the Republicans tell it, the country is besieged by left-wing anarchists.

“There has been 280 arrests as a result of the Jan. 6 attack, compared to more than 1,000 arrests as a result of riots just in Portland last year,” argued Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), the top Republican on the panel — as if violence tied to last summer’s racial justice protests in Oregon is the same as an attack on the U.S. seat of government to overturn the election. Grassley went on at length: “holding the ‘A’ symbol for antifa” ... “an admitted antifa adherent” … “antifa rioters.”

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) wanted to make sure the FBI was “tracking extremist groups like antifa or other radicalism that are connected to violence in cities across the country.”

And Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who helped to foment the Capitol attack with his effort to overturn the electoral college results, proclaimed that “we have seen massive rioting and violence as extremists, many of them leftist extremists, took to the streets,” part of an “ongoing pattern of domestic terrorism.”

Even after Wray said the FBI had found no sign of antifa or anarchist involvement in the Jan. 6 insurrection, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) took issue with “the narrative” of who was involved on Jan. 6 — and again suggested that anarchists played a role.

The attempt to muddy the waters with the largely imaginary threat of antifa serves to shift the focus from the real and present danger of white-supremacist violence. Grassley, grudgingly acknowledging that “white supremacy movements may be considered the most dangerous at a given time,” cited ever-present “left-wing threats” and asked for the FBI to “make your left-wing anarchist extremism program as robust as your white supremacy and militia extremism program.”

Key to the effort is to derail plans for a 9/11-style commission to probe the Jan. 6 attacks. Republican leaders haven’t responded to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) request for their input on a draft proposal for such a commission two weeks ago. Instead, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) last week poured cold water on the “partisan” idea and called for an investigation into “the full scope of political violence.”

In short, Republicans want to turn the Capitol insurrection commission into an antifa commission — and to paint over the events of Jan. 6 with a coat of false equivalencies.

Yet Democrats might be smart to oblige them. 

Jamie Gorelick, one of the Democratic appointees to the 9/11 commission, reminded me that it, too, was born amid fierce partisanship. President George W. Bush didn’t want a commission, and a joint House and Senate intelligence probe failed to make much headway.

But the inspired leadership of Republican Chairman Tom Kean and Democratic Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton — in a sign of their unusual partnership, they instead referred to each other as co-chairmen — made it a bipartisan triumph. There was one staff, not divided by party. No subpoenas were to be issued without bipartisan agreement. The members would only speak publicly in bipartisan pairs. Kean and Hamilton agreed that they would switch sides to prevent any vote of the commission from breaking along party lines. Whenever they couldn’t agree on the language of the 9/11 report, they agreed to limit that section of the narrative to “bare facts.”

Gorelick says the same model could work again, as long as both sides agree to appoint only former officials who have no interest in holding future elected or Senate-confirmed office. If they get that part right, it won’t matter if the commission’s mandate is Jan. 6 or broader political violence, Gorelick argued. “They’ll look at the facts,” she said, and they’ll see what is objectively true: that political violence on the left is “not as consequential” as the danger from the right.

If Republicans pack the commission with saboteurs, they could still kill the effort. But we’d be no worse off than we are now, with Republican senators meeting the FBI director’s facts with antifa fantasies.

And — who knows? — the commissioners might confound the GOP leaders who appointed them by following the facts.“

Supreme Court Seems Ready to Sustain Arizona Voting Limits The court also signaled that it could tighten the standards for using the Voting Rights Act to challenge all kinds of voting restrictions.

Supreme Court Seems Ready to Sustain Arizona Voting Limits

“The court also signaled that it could tighten the standards for using the Voting Rights Act to challenge all kinds of voting restrictions.

Election workers counting ballots in Phoenix in November. The case before the Supreme Court could determine the fate of scores if not hundreds of laws addressing election rules in the coming years.
Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court seemed ready on Tuesday to uphold two election restrictions in Arizona and to make it harder to challenge all sorts of limits on voting around the nation.

In its most important voting rights case in almost a decade, the court for the first time considered how a crucial part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 applies to voting restrictions that have a disproportionate impact on members of minority groups. The court heard the case as disputes over voting rights have again become a flash point in American politics.

The immediate question for the justices was whether two Arizona measures ran afoul of the 1965 law. One of the measures requires election officials to discard ballots cast at the wrong precinct. The other makes it a crime for campaign workers, community activists and most other people to collect ballots for delivery to polling places, a practice critics call “ballot harvesting.”

Several members of the court’s conservative majority said the restrictions were sensible, commonplace and at least partly endorsed by a bipartisan consensus reflected in a 2005 report signed by former President Jimmy Carter and James A. Baker III, who served as secretary of state under President George Bush.

The Biden administration, too, told the justices in an unusual letter two weeks ago that the Arizona measures appeared to be lawful. But the letter disavowed the Trump administration’s position that the relevant section of the Voting Rights Act should not be widely used to keep states from enacting more restrictive voting procedures.

Much of the argument on Tuesday centered on that larger issue in the case, Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, No. 19-1257, of  what standard courts should apply to challenges under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The court’s answer to that question could determine the fate of scores if not hundreds of laws addressing election rules in the coming years.

As Republican-controlled state legislatures increasingly seek to impose restrictive new voting rules, Democrats and civil rights groups are turning to the courts to argue that Republicans are trying to suppress the vote, thwart the will of the majority and deny equal access to minority voters and others who have been underrepresented at the polls.

“More voting restrictions have been enacted over the last decade than at any point since the end of Jim Crow,” Bruce V. Spiva, a lawyer for the Democratic National Committee, which is challenging the two Arizona measures, told the justices. “The last three months have seen an even greater uptick in proposed voting restrictions, many aimed squarely at the minority groups whose participation Congress intended to protect.”

Though the Voting Rights Act seeks to protect minority voting rights, as a practical matter litigation under it tends to proceed on partisan lines. When Justice Amy Coney Barrett asked a lawyer for the Arizona Republican Party why his client cared about whether votes cast at the wrong precinct should be counted, he gave a candid answer.

“Because it puts us at a competitive disadvantage relative to Democrats,” said the lawyer, Michael A. Carvin. “Politics is a zero-sum game, and every extra vote they get through unlawful interpretations of Section 2 hurts us.”

Jessica R. Amunson, a lawyer for Katie Hobbs, Arizona’s secretary of state, a Democrat, said electoral contests should not turn on voting procedures.

“Candidates and parties should be trying to win over voters on the basis of their ideas,” Ms. Amunson said, “not trying to remove voters from the electorate by imposing unjustified and discriminatory burdens.”

Section 2 took on additional prominence after the Supreme Court in 2013 effectively struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act, its Section 5, which required prior federal approval of changes to voting procedures in parts of the country with a history of racial and other discrimination.

Until then, Section 2, which allows after-the-fact challenges, had mostly been used in redistricting cases, where the question was whether voting maps had unlawfully diluted minority voting power. Its role in addressing the denial of the right to vote itself has been subject to much less attention.

Over two hours of arguments by telephone, the justices struggled to identify a standard that would allow courts to distinguish lawful restrictions from improper ones.

The court did not seem receptive to a rigorous test proposed by Mr. Carvin, the lawyer for the Arizona Republican Party, who said that ordinary election regulations are not subject to challenges under Section 2. Most justices appeared to accept that regulations that place substantial burdens on minority voters could run afoul of the law.

But there was some dispute about what counted as substantial and what justifications states could offer for their restrictions. The court’s more conservative members seemed inclined to require significant disparities unconnected to socioeconomic conditions and to accept the need to combat even potential election fraud as a sufficient reason to impose restrictions on voting.

Justice Elena Kagan tested the limits of Mr. Carvin’s argument, asking whether much longer lines at polling places in minority neighborhoods could be challenged under the law. He said yes. He gave the same answer when asked about locating all polling places at country clubs far from minority neighborhoods.

But he said cutting back on Sunday voting, even if heavily relied on by Black voters, was lawful, as was restricting voting to business hours on Election Day.

Mark Brnovich, Arizona’s attorney general, a Republican, proposed a vaguer standard, saying that the disparate effect on minority voters must be substantial and caused by the challenged practice rather than some other factor.

Asked by Justice Kagan whether the four hypothetical restrictions she had posed to Mr. Carvin would survive under that test, Mr. Brnovich did not give a direct answer.

He did say that the number of ballots disqualified for having been cast in the wrong district was very small and that Arizona’s overall election system makes it easy to vote.

Ms. Amunson, the lawyer for Arizona’s secretary of state, urged the justices to strike down the challenged restrictions.

“Arizona already has a law prohibiting fraudulent ballot collection,” she said by way of example. “What this law does is it criminalizes neighbors helping neighbors deliver ballots with up to two years in jail.”

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. asked her a series of hypothetical questions about early voting, ballot forms and deadlines for mailed ballots. Ms. Amunson gave a general answer.

“You have to take a functional view of the political process and look to a holistic view of how it is actually affecting the voter on the ground,” she said.

Justice Alito appeared unsatisfied. “Well, those are a lot of words,” he said. “I really don’t understand what they mean.”

Several justices suggested that most of the standards proposed by the lawyers before them were quite similar. “The longer this argument goes on,” Justice Kagan said, “the less clear I am as to how the parties’ standards differ.”

Justice Stephen G. Breyer echoed the point. “Lots of the parties on both sides are pretty close on the standards,” he said.

Justices Kagan and Breyer, both members of the court’s liberal wing, may have been playing defense, hoping the court’s decision, expected by July, would leave Section 2 more or less unscathed.

But Justice Alito said he was wary of making “every voting rule vulnerable to attack under Section 2.”

“People who are poor and less well educated on balance probably will find it more difficult to comply with just about every voting rule than do people who are more affluent and have had the benefit of more education,” he said.

Justice Barrett appeared to agree. “All election rules,” she said, “are going to make it easier for some to vote than others.”

But Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh said he could think of two workable standards for applying the law. “One factor would be if you’re changing to a new rule that puts minorities in a worse position than they were under the old rule,” he said, “and a second factor would be whether a rule is commonplace in other states that do not have a similar history of racial discrimination.”

Last year, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, ruled that both Arizona restrictions violated Section 2 because they disproportionately disadvantaged minority voters.“

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