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Politics

Key Voting Rights Decision Expected from Supreme Court

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court is wrapping up its first all-virtual term, with decisions expected in a key case on voting rights and another involving information that California requires charities to provide about donors.

The court's last day of work Thursday before its summer break also could include a retirement announcement, although the oldest of the justices, 82-year-old Stephen Breyer, has given no indication he intends to step down this year.

As it has since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the court is planning to post opinions on its website starting at 10 a.m. EDT.

The courtroom is closed to the public because of the pandemic and the justices heard 58 arguments via telephone over eight months. In another change brought on by COVID-19, the court provided an audio feed that allowed the public to listen to the arguments live.

The two remaining unresolved cases both arose in the West.

In a case from Arizona, the justices are being asked to uphold two state voting restrictions that limit who can return early ballots for another person and bars the counting of votes cast in the wrong polling precincts.

The federal appeals court in San Francisco said both measures disproportionately affect minority voters and violated the Voting Rights Act prohibition on discrimination in voting.

During arguments in February, the justices seemed likely to upend that ruling and allow the Arizona restrictions to remain in place.

Less clear is whether the court will use the case to raise the bar for proving racial discrimination under the landmark civil rights law that dates from 1965. Such an outcome could make it harder for challenges to voting laws enacted by Republican lawmakers in several states following the 2020 election.

Last week, the Justice Department sued Georgia over its new voting measures, claiming that they violate the Voting Rights Act, among other laws.

The other case, from California, has brought together an unusually broad coalition of liberal and conservative groups in support of two nonprofits that object to the state's requirement that they provide the names of major donors.

The information already is provided to the Internal Revenue Service, and California says the information remains private and helps it prevent fraud in charitable giving. But the nonprofits, including one linked to billionaire Charles Koch, say the risk of disclosure could discourage donors.

A decision for the charities seemed likely based on the arguments in April. The outcome could take on added importance if the justices were to raise questions about disclosure requirements for federal campaign contributions, which so far have been left untouched in high-court rulings that otherwise loosened the reins on money in politics. 

The high court has already issued opinions in its other big cases of the term. In recent weeks, it rejected the latest major Republican-led effort to kill the national health care law known as "Obamacare" and sided with a Catholic foster care agency that had a religious objection to working with same-sex couples. 

The justices also sided with students in two cases: barring the NCAA from enforcing rules on certain compensation schools can offer athletes and ruling that a school violated the speech rights of a cheerleader who was kicked off the junior varsity squad for a vulgar social media post.

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