(CNN)When Attorney General Merrick Garland appeared before cameras Friday to announce a lawsuit challenging Georgia’s new voting restrictions, it was the timing and the Justice Department’s strategy that intrigued voting rights experts.
That’s because the lawsuit — triggering the latest dispute about the scope of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act — came as the Supreme Court is poised to release an opinion on the very same section of the law. The opinion — in one of the marquee cases of the term — will come down next week. In addition, Garland timed his announcement to the exact eight-year anniversary of the court’s last big voting rights case. In the landmark decision called Shelby County v. Holder, Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for a 5-4 majority, effectively gutted a separate section of the law and declared that “things have changed in the South.”
Garland wanted to send a clear message Friday: Roberts was wrong. “I express concern about the dramatic rise in state legislative actions that will make it harder for millions of citizens to cast a vote that counts,” the attorney general said.
Garland, a former judge steeped in precedent, knows full well the impact of the Shelby County decision and will be carefully watching how the justices rule next week. But the Justice Department filing also reveals a careful strategy. It is crafted in a way that will allow it to endure even if the court’s majority further trims the Voting Rights Act next week.
The case before the Supreme Court — Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee — largely revolves around what is called the “results test” of Section 2 of the law. That is, whether the provisions of Arizona law at issue violated Section 2 because they resulted in voting discrimination. A lower court said they did.
“We hold that Arizona’s policy of wholly discarding rather than counting out of precinct ballots and the criminalization of the collection of another person’s ballot have a discriminatory impact on American Indian, Hispanic, and Afr
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