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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The Supreme Court agreed Friday to hear a major voting rights case, setting up a clash over states’ handling of absentee ballots.

Why it matters: The court has already invalidated a key section of the Voting Rights Act, even before President Trump solidified and expanded its conservative majority, and is now poised to limit voting-rights enforcement again.

  • The justices will not hear this case until after the 2020 election, but its stakes for future elections are significant.
  • The case concerns voting rules in Arizona. The state does not count votes that are cast in the wrong precinct, and it prohibits "ballot harvesting" — people collecting other people’s absentee ballots.
  • The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals held that because Arizona’s rules crack down on practices that disproportionately benefit minority voters, they’re illegal.

What they’re saying: Critics say those two rules are unconstitutional and also a violation of the Voting Rights Act.

  • Rejecting out-of-precinct ballots disadvantages people of color because their assigned polling places change more often, the Democratic National Committee said in a brief to the high court.
  • And ballot collection efforts have increased turnout in heavily Hispanic areas.

The other side: Arizona says it has simply adopted race-neutral rules that apply equally to every voter and every part of the state.

  • The Voting Rights Act prohibits states from erecting barriers based on race, the state argues, but that’s not the same thing as requiring states to adopt the voting laws that do the most to increase minority turnout.
  • The 9th Circuit’s ruling, the state argues in a brief, "would imperil nearly every voting rule and practice in the nation, since one can always hypothesize other voting regimes that would increase minority turnout."

The bottom line: Chief Justice John Roberts and the court's conservative majority weakened the Voting Rights Act long before Trump was elected, and will likely continue to give states wide latitude over their voting laws.

Go deeper

Updated Jan 6, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Schumer declares Democratic majority in the Senate

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) declared on Wednesday that Democrats have gained control of the Senate, calling it a "brand new day" in Washington.

The state of play: The AP projected that Rev. Raphael Warnock has defeated Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R). Democrat Jon Ossoff is currently leading in the race against former Sen. David Perdue (R), but the contest is still too close to call.

Trump sues New York Times and his niece over tax report

Former President Trump hosting a boxing match in Hollywood, Florida on Sept. 11. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

Former President Trump filed a $100 million lawsuit against the New York Times and his niece Mary Trump on Tuesday over the news outlet's 2018 reporting on his tax records, the Daily Beast first reported.

Details: The suit, filed in New York's Dutchess County, alleges NYT journalists "engaged in an insidious plot to obtain confidential and highly-sensitive records" and that they "convinced" Mary Trump to "smuggle records out of her attorney's office and turn them over to The Times."

Brazil's health minister tests positive for COVID during UN summit in N.Y.

President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro (L) and Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga in Brasilia, Brazil, in May. Photo: Andressa Anholete/Getty Images

Brazil's Health Minister Marcelo Queirog has tested positive for COVID-19 while in New York City for the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), he confirmed Tuesday night.

Why it matters: Hours earlier, Queirog had accompanied Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to the UNGA. The Biden administration expressed concern last week that the gathering of world leaders could become a coronavirus "superspreader event."

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