A frequently made argument by GOP apologists, like Robert Robb of the Arizona Republic, is that Arizona should not be a covered jurisdiction under the Voting Rights Act.
Arizona failed to meet certain criteria in 1972 to get federal approval for any state legislation or procedural changes that could impact voting, which included having low voter turnout and not offering election materials in other languages. Arizona in 1974 implemented bilingual voting, but Congress never removed Arizona from the Section 4 covered jurisdiction formula in subsequent renewals of the Act. “We’re being punished for the past!”
This argument requires one to ignore the fact that Arizona has always had the opportunity to “opt out” of the covered jurisdiction formula if it could adequately demonstrate a clean bill of health for a period of 10 years without any violations for discrimination against voters. A number of jurisdictions have successfully “opted out’ over the years.
This argument also requires one to ignore the history of discrimination that occurred after Arizona was added to the list of covered jurisdictions — the Department of Justice filed formal objections to racially discriminatory changes to Arizona law 22 times since 1973, including each decennial redistricting — except for the most recent redistricting in 2012.
This is the reason why Arizona has never been able to qualify for the “opt out” provision. Arizona cannot demonstrate a clean bill of health for a period of 10 years without any violations for discrimination against voters. Funny how the GOP apologists never mention this. They would have you believe it was just a one-off event over bilingual ballots in 1972. Hardly.
The U.S. Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder has, at least temporarily, relieved Arizona of Section 5 preclearance obligations, as Section 5 is suspended until such time that Congress can enact a new Section 4 coverage formula.