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Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The Supreme Court today upheld a pair of voting restrictions in Arizona, likely paving the way for new limitations across the country.

Why it matters: It's the court’s biggest voting rights decision in several years. Conservatives’ victory in the 6-3 ruling, authored by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, is a sign of what’s to come.

Details: The case concerned two voting restrictions in Arizona. The state invalidates ballots that are cast in the wrong precinct, and it also bans the practice known as “ballot harvesting,” in which third parties collect and return other people’s ballots.

  • Democrats argued those rules end up disproportionately affecting voters of color, and that they, therefore, violate the Voting Rights Act. “Ballot harvesting,” for example, is particularly useful to the state’s Native population, Democrats said, because polling places can be far away and mail service isn’t always reliable.

In a 6-3 ruling, the court said neither of Arizona's rules amounts to racial discrimination.

Context: The stakes in this case were high because it implicates what’s left of the Voting Rights Act.

  • The Supreme Court in 2013 effectively invalidated the "preclearance" provision of the Voting Rights Act, which required states and local governments to clear voting rule changes with the federal government if they had a history of discrimination.
  • All that’s left now is to challenge new rules after they take effect under a different provision of the law.
  • In today’s case, Democrats and voting-rights advocates feared that upholding Arizona’s specific restrictions would also close the door — or begin closing the door — to many other after-the-fact challenges.

The big picture: As long as state legislatures don’t cross the line into overt racial discrimination, they will get wide latitude from the courts to change the rules that govern their elections.

  • The court has already invalidated the heart of the Voting Rights Act. And it ruled in 2019 that federal courts can’t even consider any limits on partisan gerrymandering — another tool that state-level majorities use to preserve their power.
  • Today's decision is another step in the same direction.

Go deeper

Updated Oct 9, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Appeals court temporarily reinstates Texas abortion ban

Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday temporarily reinstated Texas' controversial abortion ban, hours after the state requested an emergency intervention.

Why it matters: The three-judge panel's decision will allow Texas to once again enforce the ban despite a lower court judge's earlier ruling that the law is unconstitutional.

Oct 8, 2021 - World

UN ends Yemen war crimes investigation to outcry from rights groups

A Yemeni man walks past destoyed vehicles and shuttered shops in the Crater district of the southern city of Aden on Oct. 3, 2021 following clashes between armed groups. Photo: Saleh Al-Obeidi/AFP via Getty Images

The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) narrowly voted 21-18 Thursday to end the body's war crimes investigation in Yemen despite Western states' push to continue the mission.

Why it matters: The political conflict between a Saudi-led military coalition and Iran-allied Houthi rebels has killed over 8,200 civilians, including 2,270 children, and injured 13,283 civilians since 2015, the UNHRC says.

Updated 1 hour ago - World

State Department orders evacuation of U.S. diplomats' families from Ukraine

From left, undersecretary for political affairs Victoria Nuland, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. chargés d'affaires in Ukraine Kristina Kvien during a meeting with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal in Kyiv. Photo: Yevhen Liubimov/ Ukrinform/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

The State Department will begin evacuating families and nonessential staff from the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv this week, according to a travel advisory published Sunday evening.

The latest: The United Kingdom's Foreign Office announced Monday it was also withdrawing some embassy staff and dependants from Ukraine's capital "in response to the growing threat from Russia," but added the British Embassy would remain open.