Biden ‘deeply disappointed’ by Supreme Court ruling on voting restrictions
President Biden on Thursday denounced a Supreme Court decision upholding GOP-backed voting restrictions in Arizona that critics argue make it more difficult to access the ballot.
Biden decried the ruling as the latest blow the court has dealt to the Voting Rights Act, and he argued the decision increases the urgency for federal action on election reform even as its path forward remains murky.
“I am deeply disappointed in today’s decision by the United States Supreme Court that undercuts the Voting Rights Act, and upholds what Justice [Elena] Kagan called ‘a significant race-based disparity in voting opportunities,’ ” Biden said in a statement.
“After all we have been through to deliver the promise of this Nation to all Americans, we should be fully enforcing voting rights laws, not weakening them,” he added. “Yet this decision comes just over a week after Senate Republicans blocked even a debate — even consideration — of the For the People Act that would have protected the right to vote from action by Republican legislators in states across the country.”
The justices, in a 6-3 decision that fell along ideological lines, upheld Arizona’s policy requiring provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct be discarded and a second measure making it illegal for most third parties to deliver ballots for others, a practice critics refer to as “ballot harvesting.”
Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito said a lower court erred by ruling that those restrictions violated Section 2 the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which bars racially discriminatory voting policies.
The court’s three liberals responded with a blistering 41-page dissent that accused the conservative majority of continuing a trend of undermining federal voting protections.
Biden, speaking to reporters in Florida later Thursday, called it “critical that we make the distinction between voter suppression and suspension.
“The ability of a state legislative body to come laong and… change who is declared the winner I find to be somewhat astounding,” Biden said after meeting with local officials and families of victims of last week’s condo collapse in Sunrise, Fla.
Biden said he would be speaking and “going on the road” to address voting rights in the coming days.
The court ruling came eight years after its Shelby County v. Holder decision, in which the court eliminated the government’s preclearance authority under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which had allowed the Department of Justice to screen proposed changes to voting procedures in states with a history of racial discrimination in elections.
But Thursday’s decision coincides with a push among GOP-led state legislatures to enact stricter voting laws in the wake of the 2020 election, which former President Trump has repeatedly cast doubt on with unsubstantiated claims.
Biden has repeatedly spoken about voting rights as a top priority for his administration, cautioning that democracy is under attack from the new state laws. Vice President Harris is leading the administration’s efforts on protecting voting rights, meeting with state and local officials on the issue.
“Our democracy depends on an election system built on integrity and independence,” Biden said. “The attack we are seeing today makes clearer than ever that additional laws are needed to safeguard that beating heart of our democracy. We must also shore up our election security to address the threats of election subversion from abroad and at home.”
He vowed his administration would continue to fight for Democratic-backed elections laws in Congress, asserting the Supreme Court’s decision “puts the burden back on Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act to its intended strength.”
Harris, in a statement of her own reacting to the decision, said that the ruling “will undoubtedly restrict the right to vote, and in particular, for voters of color.” She similarly called on Congress to take action to strengthen and protect voting rights.
“Almost 40 years ago, Congress worked across party lines to strengthen Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act in response to an adverse Supreme Court decision,” Harris said. “Now, Congress must act again. Our democracy depends on it.”
Updated at 4:59 p.m.