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July 2, 2021

Daily News Lesson: Supreme Court’s latest ruling further guts Voting Rights Act of 1965


Directions: Read the summary, watch the video and answer the discussion questions below. Please note this video has been edited to be shorter for this Daily News Lesson. To view the full video and read the transcript, click here

Summary: On the final day of its term, the Supreme Court issued major decisions that put the Court’s 6-3 conservative majority in the spotlight, upholding two Arizona voting laws that restrict how ballots can be cast. Opponents state the latest rulings will make it harder for people of color, many of whom vote Democratic, to vote and challenge future state laws they say violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Many Republican proponents argue the stricter rules are needed to ensure the integrity of elections, maintaining President Donald Trump lost in 2020 because of massive voter fraud. No such evidence has been produced.

Key Terms: 

Ballot harvesting: Gathering and submitting of completed absentee or mail-in voter ballots by third-party individuals, such as volunteers or workers, rather than voters submitting ballots directly themselves. Ballot harvesting is more common in situations where voter mobility is a concern, including nursing homes and remote rural areas.

Provisional ballot: Provisional ballots provide a way for people to vote whose voter registration or qualifications to vote are in doubt based on available records. Provisional ballots are handled and scrutinized separately from normally cast ballots.

Voting Rights Act of 1965: A landmark piece of federal legislation in the United States that prohibits racial discrimination in voting.

Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act: The second section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibits voting practices or procedures that discriminate on the basis of race, color, or membership in one of the language minority groups identified in Section 4 of the same act. 

Discussion questions: 

Warm up questions: Have your students identify the 5Ws and an H:

  • What is the Voting Rights Act of 1965?
  • Who declared Arizona’s new voting rules constitutional?
  • Why did the opponents of Arizona’s new voting laws sue to have them thrown out?
  • Where (what regions) are disproportionally impacted by these laws, according to this interview? 
  • How do the dissents in the Supreme Court ruling say that the Arizona voting rules defy the Voting Rights Act of 1965? 

Focus question: How do you think this Supreme Court decision will affect voting rights across the country, not just Arizona? What are some ways other states might change voting laws? 

Media literacy: This segment consists of a sit-down interview with two experts in the NewsHour studios. In your opinion, what are the strength and weaknesses of this type of format? 

Dig deeper: 

  • Research the voting laws of the state and county where you live. What problem do they seek to solve? Do proposed bills or laws seek to expand voting access or limit it? 
  • For a timeline of voting rights in the U.S., see this article.
  • For more about voting accessibility, watch this PBS NewsHour piece:

This Daily News Lesson was written by EXTRA intern Cecilia Curran and EXTRA’s Victoria Pasquantonio. Curran is a sophomore at Amherst College.

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