The Essential Role of the Judiciary in Central Arizona's Democracy

Central Arizona is a vibrant democracy, and the role of the judiciary is essential to its functioning. Voters in the region have a responsibility to assess the judges on their ballot, and Our Courts Arizona is an interactive civic program that helps them do just that. Our Courts Arizona provides non-partisan, easy to understand sessions taught by current and retired judges. These sessions help to educate the public on the importance of fair, impartial, and accessible courts, as well as the rule of law.

Recently, the case of Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee has caused concern due to its potential for racial discrimination. This case challenges two Arizona policies: a regulation that requires ballots cast outside the electoral district to be discarded, including votes for president, governor, or other contests; and a criminal law that prohibits anyone other than a family member or caregiver from returning early ballots to another person. In response to this case, many partners and allies have filed amicus briefs in support of the defendants.

These briefs urge the court to reaffirm the principle of equal access to the polls without discrimination, as well as the role that Section 2 plays in ensuring this principle is met. One such brief was submitted on behalf of 70 current and former state and local election officials from 38 states and DC. This brief rejects the claim that strong Article 2 hinders legitimate electoral administration by threatening litigation, and notes that it is difficult to file claims under Article 2 because the law only prohibits discriminatory measures. Another brief was submitted by the attorneys general of the District of Columbia and 17 states.

This brief argues that, based on their experience, the Ninth Circuit's two-step test to evaluate claims filed under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act does not conflict with the role of states in the administration of elections. The two-part test protects regulated parties from unnecessary liability by requiring a rigorous, context-specific factual investigation. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and other public interest organizations also submitted a brief. This brief argues that discriminatory electoral policies that disproportionately affect minority communities have been on the rise over the past ten years, and that Section 2 plays a vital and continuing role in protecting equal voter access for minorities at the polls.

It also explains that the Court's application of Section 2 plays an important role in protecting fragile democracies from discrimination. The National Congress of American Indians submitted a brief analyzing numerous barriers Native Americans face in registering and voting as a result of historical discrimination and disenfranchisement. This brief focuses on how ballot collection helps Native Americans living on rural reservations overcome these barriers, and how prohibiting ballot collection results in discrimination against native communities. The A for North Carolina, Memphis, Central Virginia and Miami-Dade Philip Randolf Institute for Respondent Support also submitted a brief cataloging numerous ways in which facially neutral election laws deny equal opportunities for black voters to participate in the political process. This brief focuses on recent experiences with discrimination in North Carolina, and argues that strong Section 2 protection is necessary to provide protection against continued discrimination. Finally, Mi Familia Vota, Arizona Center for Empowerment, Chispa Arizona and League of Women Voters of Arizona Brief of Fair Fight Action & Arizona Voter Empowerment Task Force submitted a brief analyzing Arizona Attorney General's decision to investigate and prosecute two Latina women for serious crimes for possessing four ballots in violation of the ballot collection ban challenged in this case. This brief argues that these indictments demonstrate that this prohibition is ready for abuse and was never intended to address fraud but rather as a means of engaging in discrimination. In conclusion, it is clear that strong Section 2 protection is essential for ensuring equal access to voting without discrimination.

The various briefs submitted in support of this case demonstrate how important it is for voters in Central Arizona to evaluate their judges carefully so they can ensure their democracy remains vibrant and free from discrimination.

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