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Opinion: Courts are supposed to protect the right to vote. Why aren't they?

October 14, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 27: Residents from Alabama stand in line outside the U.S. Supreme Court for a chance to hear oral arguments February 27, 2013 in Washington, DC. The court will hear oral arguments today in Shelby County v. Holder, a legal challenge to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Joshua A. Douglas writes that a disturbing number of courts are refusing to protect the right to vote because they are unduly deferential to state legislatures and election officials. "Why even have courts if they will simply rubber stamp state laws that harm voting rights?"

Sometimes, that deference can protect voting rights, such as when courts have rejected Trump campaign challenges to state rules that ease voter access.

The court had the gall to suggest that Texas's rules actually amount to an "expansion" of the right to vote because voters have more days than before to hand deliver a ballot to the county clerk's office.

Because the case involved the ability to vote via absentee ballot, the court said that the issue was not about the "right to vote" but instead the "privilege" to vote in a particular way.

But perhaps more gallingly, the court completely absolved the state legislature from any responsibility in making it harder to vote, stating, "It's the pandemic, not the State, that might affect Plaintiffs' determination to cast a ballot. " The same court also reversed a district court decision that had extended Indiana's deadline for accepting absentee ballots.

A Georgia district court perhaps best identified the problem when rejecting a challenge to Georgia's new implementation of ballot marking device (BMD) voting machines based on their unreliability: The judge sounded like she was almost apologizing for ruling against the plaintiffs given the likely infringement on the right to vote, but ruled in favor of the state because of Supreme Court and Eleventh Circuit precedent that required her to defer to state election officials, especially as the election draws near.

Why even have courts if they will simply rubber stamp state laws that harm voting rights?

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