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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

DOJ seeks emergency order to temporarily block Texas abortion law

Pro-Abortion rights protesters march outside the Texas State Capitol on Sept. 1 in Austin, Texas. Photo: Sergio Flores For The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Department of Justice submitted an emergency motion late Tuesday seeking a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction on Texas' ban on abortions after six weeks.

Why it matters: The action marks an escalation by the Biden administration in its challenge on the constitutionality of the GOP-led state's restrictive new law, after the DOJ filed a lawsuit last week following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision, in a 5-4 vote, to allow the ban to remain in place.

Updated Sep 15, 2021 - Politics & Policy

California Gov. Newsom survives recall election

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) defeated a Republican-backed effort to remove him, AP projected on Tuesday night.

Why it matters, via Axios' Margaret Talev: Tuesday's results highlight the limits of Republicans trying to use Trump tactics in a deeply Democratic state.

10 hours ago - Health

FDA advisory panel recommends Pfizer boosters for those 65 and older

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Key Biscayne Community Center on Aug. 24, 2021. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday overwhelmingly voted against recommending Pfizer vaccine booster shots for younger Americans, but unanimously recommended approving the third shots for individuals 65 and older, as well as those at high-risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: While the votes are non-binding, and the FDA must still make a final decision, Friday's move pours cold water on the Biden administration's plan to begin administering boosters to most individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine later this month.