WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — The Supreme Court wrapped up its first all-virtual term, with decisions in a key case on voting rights and another involving information that California requires charities to provide about donors.
The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld voting restrictions in Arizona in a decision that could make it harder to challenge other voting measures put in place by Republican lawmakers following last year’s elections.
The court, by a 6-3 vote, reversed a lower court ruling in deciding that Arizona’s limits on who can return early ballots for another person and refusal to count ballots cast in the wrong precinct are not racially discriminatory.
The federal appeals court in San Francisco had held that the measures disproportionately affected Black, Hispanic and Native American voters in violation of the landmark Voting Rights Act.
The court’s three liberal justices dissented from the decision.
Justice Samuel Alito wrote for a conservative majority that the state’s interest in the integrity of elections justified the measures.
The court rejected the idea that showing that a state law disproportionately affects minority voters is enough to prove a violation of the law.
In dissent, Justice Elena Kagan wrote that the court was weakening the landmark voting rights law for the second time in eight years.
“What is tragic here is that the Court has (yet again) rewritten — in order to weaken — a statute that stands as a monument to America’s greatness, and protects against its basest impulses. What is tragic is that the Court has damaged a statute designed to bring about ‘the end of discrimination in voting.’ I respectfully dissent,” Kagan wrote, joined by the other two liberal justices.
President Biden, who is currently in Surfside Florida touring the site of the condo collapse, called the decision “deeply disappointing.”
“Today’s decision also makes it all the more imperative to continue the fight for the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to restore and expand voting protections. The Court’s decision, harmful as it is, does not limit Congress’ ability to repair the damage done today: it puts the burden back on Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act to its intended strength,” Biden said.
Last week, the Justice Department sued Georgia over its new voting measures, claiming that they violate the Voting Rights Act, among other laws.
The U.S. Supreme Court also ruled in favor of two conservative groups that challenged a California requirement that tax-exempt charities disclose to the state the identity of their top financial donors.
The justices, in a 6-3 ruling, sided with the two nonprofit groups – the Americans for Prosperity Foundation and the Thomas More Law Center – in finding that California’s policy, in place for the past decade, violates the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and association.
Democratic-governed California has said the donor information is required as part of the state attorney general’s duty to prevent charitable fraud.
The Thomas More Law Center is a conservative Catholic legal group. The Americans for Prosperity Foundation, which funds education and training on conservative issues, is the sister organization of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative political advocacy group – both founded by conservative billionaire businessman Charles Koch and his late brother David.
The two challengers, backed by an array of nonprofit organizations from across the ideological spectrum, have said that their donors could face harassment or threats if their identities become public.
California requires that charities provide a copy of the tax form they file with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service that lists donors who contribute big amounts of money. Larger groups must disclose donors who contribute $200,000 or more in any year. That information is not posted online and is kept confidential but some has been disclosed in the past.
The courtroom is closed to the public because of the pandemic and the justices heard 58 arguments via telephone over eight months. In another change brought on by COVID-19, the court provided an audio feed that allowed the public to listen to the arguments live.
The high court has already issued opinions in its other big cases of the term. In recent weeks, it rejected the latest major Republican-led effort to kill the national health care law known as “Obamacare” and sided with a Catholic foster care agency that had a religious objection to working with same-sex couples.
The justices also sided with students in two cases: barring the NCAA from enforcing rules on certain compensation schools can offer athletes and ruling that a school violated the speech rights of a cheerleader who was kicked off the junior varsity squad for a vulgar social media post.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.