Supreme Court upholds Arizona voting rules, including ballot harvesting ban

The U.S. Supreme Court on July 1 upheld two Republican-supported Arizona voting laws the legislators say are intended to ensure election integrity.

The decision, delivered by a 6-3 court split on ideological lines, found that neither law violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and that they were not enacted with racially discriminatory intent. Justice Samuel Alito wrote the court’s majority opinion. Justice Elena Kagan led the leftists on the court in dissent.

People with identification are not scarce

The Arizona Republican Party and the Democratic National Committee have been feuding over the laws since before the 2016 presidential election. The case received renewed attention in the aftermath of the 2020 election after many Americans said that coronavirus-era voting provisions, some later found to have been enacted illegally, had unfairly tilted the election to the Democrats.

The laws, approved long before the 2020 election, require that a ballot be thrown out if it was cast in a precinct other than the one matching the voter’s home address. The laws also ban “ballot harvesting,” in which third-party carriers such as unions and activist groups collect absentee ballots and deliver them for counting. Passed in 2016, Arizona H.B. 2023, makes it a felony for anyone other than a family member, caregiver or postal worker to collect and deliver ballots.

The second Arizona law in question requires ballots to be cast in the assigned precinct where a voter lives. If a voter casts a provisional ballot at the wrong polling place, election officials will reject it.

According to the Washington Examiner, “Democrats claimed that the laws are racist because they could disproportionately affect black, Latino, and Native American populations. The DNC, in its brief, called Arizona’s out-of-precinct policy one of the ‘most punishing in the nation’ and accused it of effectively disenfranchising more than 38,000 voters since 2008. It also alleged that the ballot harvesting ban took voting rights away from minorities who rely on third-party carriers to vote.”

In a 2005 bipartisan report, former President Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, and former Secretary of State James Baker, a Republican, recommended prohibiting ballot collection. Critics of ballot harvesting can also point to a race in Patterson, New Jersey last year in which candidates were indicted on fraud charges after they mishandled collected ballots.  They were indicted on charges of election fraud, fraud in casting mail-in votes, unauthorized possession of ballots, tampering with public records and falsifying records. Patterson City Councilman Alex Mendez also was indicted for alleged false voter registration.

The Supreme Court’s decision overturns the San Francisco-based U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which found that Arizona’s regulations had a disproportionate impact on Native American, Latino and Black voters and that it was enacted in a broader context of voter discrimination.

Posted July 1, 2021

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