How might the new “restrictive” voting laws impact Arizona’s minorities?
âOur state is suffocating right now in the fire of oppression,â the Reverend Terry Mackey implored passionately at a March On For Voting Rights event at Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church last month.
Phoenix residents and citizens across the country are demanding that the US Congress protect voting rights following the introduction by Republican lawmakers of voting bills deemed “restrictive” by voting rights activists and by some Democratic lawmakers.
Some believe that these forays into voting rights will have a disproportionate impact on minority groups and people of color. The rally coincided with the 58th anniversary of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. People from all walks of life – whites, blacks, Asian Americans, Latinos – came to church to support the movement.
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“We stand up against the storm that tries to uproot our rights, our freedoms, our very democracy,” said AFL-CIO President Elizabeth Schuler. âExtremist lawmakers are trying to deny us our right to vote and our access to the ballot box,â she said.
Schuler added that the attacks “were aimed at silencing and depriving people of color of their rights.” The union president wants lawmakers to act.
âWe call on the two senators from Arizona, whom we helped elect, to do the right thing. Set aside systematic obstruction. Pass the law for the people, âshe said.
Those present applauded and applauded in agreement.
Sarah Olson, 53, a Phoenix resident and participant, shared her perspective on voting rights in the state.
âIt’s a right that many around the world don’t have,â Olson said. âSome do not fully understand the situation and what is at stake. Our young people must be made aware of this issue to fight against the restriction of the right to vote. The citizens of the state, and the country as a whole, should try to change the hierarchy of politics to favor voters, not politicians.
Marsha Talifarro, 79, said she disapproved of the GOP’s actions. She says bills introduced across the country violate the rights of people of color and minorities. To counter this onslaught, she wants people to present petitions and call their representatives and senators. It shouldn’t be a one-off thing either. She wants people to try to do it on a daily basis.
According to the Brennan Center for Justice, a legal and political institute, 18 states have passed 30 election laws that it calls “restrictive” since the 2020 presidential election. 49 state legislatures have introduced more than 400 restrictive bills access to voting. Arizona is one of them.
The Arizona state legislature has introduced several voter restriction bills. One law, HB 2023, a ballot harvesting law, was considered in a Supreme Court case in which Attorney General Mark Brnovich argued it was constitutional while the Democratic National Committee said it had a negative impact on minority communities.
HB 2023 specifically states: âA person who knowingly collects the advance polls voted or not of another person is guilty of a class 6 felony. This article does not apply to a family member, a member of the household or a caregiver of the voter.
The DNC argued that the law would negatively impact Native American communities that rely on third parties to cast their ballots because postal services are few and far between. Justice Deborah Ann Begay, herself a Native American, at the March On For Voting Rights rally, made a similar comment, saying some tribal communities did not even have physical polling stations.
In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court sided with Brnovich, saying HB 2023 did not violate voting rights law.
David Wells, keynote speaker and political science professor at Arizona State University, agrees that these bills and laws violate minority voting rights, but has a different opinion when it comes to Arizona voting laws.
âWe’re not like Georgia or Texas. We weren’t as bad as we could have been, âWells said.
However, he criticized HB 2023, especially its potential impact on Native Americans.
“The idea that someone would try to be of service to them by giving up their ballot, which might make logical sense, would be committing a crime seemed ludicrous.”
Others argue that these bills contribute to the integrity of the elections by preventing electoral fraud. They also argue that voting laws should belong to the states, not the federal government. Wells disagreed.
âJim Crow depended on the states. The idea of ââstate rights is not a wonder fantasy, âhe said.
With voting rights becoming a central issue, especially for minority communities in America, Democratic lawmakers are pushing for a federal solution. They are pushing for the passage of the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
The For the People Act is a bill that, if passed, would expand access to the ballot box, strengthen federal support for the security of the electoral system, make monetary contributions more transparent and close ethical loopholes, according to US representative John Sarbanes, sponsor of the bill.
According to US Senator Patrick Leahy, the sponsor of the bill, the John Lewis Advancement Act would restore “the full protections of the original, bipartisan Voting Rights Act of 1965”. Some of these protections were ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2013. Both bills were passed by the House of Representatives and are now awaiting a vote in the Senate.