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Supreme Court backs Arizona voting restrictions

The regulations limit early ballot return options and bar the counting of votes cast in the wrong polling precincts.

Trump Biden election votes

The Supreme Court upheld two Arizona state voting restrictions.

James Martin/CNET

The US Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a pair of Arizona voting restrictions, throwing out a lower court's opinion that they violated the Voting Rights Act. The decisions came on the Supreme Court's last day of work in its current term.

In a 6-3 opinion that divided the court along ideological lines, it upheld a limit on who can return an early ballot for another person and upheld a practice of discarding ballots cast in the wrong precinct. 

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

Under the Trump administration, the Justice Department supported Arizona's restrictions, as noted by The Wall Street Journal. Once President Joe Biden came into office, the Justice Department followed up to say the new administration disagreed with its predecessor's interpretation of the law but said it believed the restrictions are valid.

On Thursday, Biden said he's "disappointed" in the decision by the Supreme Court and urged Congress to enact legislation to protect voting rights. 

"After all we have been through to deliver the promise of this Nation to all Americans, we should be fully enforcing voting rights laws, not weakening them," the president said in a statement. "The Court's decision, harmful as it is, does not limit Congress' ability to repair the damage done today: it puts the burden back on Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act to its intended strength."  

Last week, the Justice Department sued Georgia over its new voting measures, alleging they violate the Voting Rights Act.