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In what is being hailed as a major victory for election integrity, the Supreme Court reversed a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision and ruled that an Arizona voting law banning ballot harvesting and out-of-precinct voting is constitutional.
Arizona’s law prohibits the counting of ballots cast in the wrong precinct on Election Day and says that only certain approved people, such as family, mail carriers, caregivers, and election officials, are allowed to deliver another person’s early ballot to the polls. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) sued the state, claiming that the new laws were racist and designed to suppress minority voting. The Ninth Circuit agreed, overruling an earlier decision upholding the law by the District Court.
However, Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the case of Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee that the Ninth Circuit “misunderstood and misapplied [Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965] and … exceeded its authority in rejecting the District Court’s factual finding on the issue of legislative intent.”
Specifically, the majority found that the law, known as HB2023, did not violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965 or the 15th Amendment as they did not find any indication that it was enacted for the purpose of racially discriminating against any voters. The Court also found that the new restrictions were not inappropriate as most states require voters to vote in their own home precincts and approximately 20 states expressly ban third-party ballot harvesting.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals court had ruled that Arizona’s law regarding ballot harvesting and out of precinct voting discriminated against minorities. “For over a century,” the majority opinion read, “Arizona has repeatedly targeted its American Indian, Hispanic, and African American citizens, limiting or eliminating their ability to vote and to participate in the political process.”
Judge William A. Fletcher wrote, “Arizona’s policy of wholly discarding … out-of-precinct ballots, and … criminalization of the collection of another person’s ballot, have a discriminatory impact on American Indian, Hispanic, and African American voters in Arizona, in violation of the ‘results test’ of Section 2 of the VRA.”
Fletcher claimed that the ban on ballot collection “was enacted with discriminatory intent, in violation of the ‘intent test’ of Section 2 of the VRA and of the Fifteenth Amendment,” because minorities have difficulty receiving mail and rely on ballot collectors.
However, the Supreme Court disagreed vehemently, with Alito writing for the majority,
“Voting necessarily requires some effort and compliance with some rules; thus, the concept of a voting system that is ‘equally open’ and that furnishes equal “opportunity” to cast a ballot must tolerate the ‘usual burdens of voting.’ Mere inconvenience is insufficient…. Appropriate weight must be given to the important state interests furthered by precinct-based voting. It helps to distribute voters more evenly among polling places; it can put polling places closer to voter residences; and it helps to ensure that each voter receives a ballot that lists only the candidates and public questions on which he or she can vote. Precinct-based voting has a long pedigree in the United States, and the policy of not counting out-of-precinct ballots is widespread.”
Moreover, the Court noted that the “burdens of identifying and traveling to one’s assigned precinct are also modest when considering Arizona’s “political processes” as a whole. The State offers other easy ways to vote, which likely explains why out-of-precinct votes on election day make up such a small and apparently diminishing portion of overall ballots cast.”
As for ballot harvesting, Alito wrote that the state had a compelling interest in banning the practice as “third-party ballot collection can lead to pressure and intimidation” on voters. In addition, although Arizona has not proved instances of voter fraud, the state has a compelling interest in ensuring election integrity and, as such, “a State may take action to prevent election fraud without waiting for it to occur within its own borders.”
The Supreme Court’s three liberals agreed with the Ninth Circuit as Justice Elena Kagan wrote, “What is tragic here is that the Court has (yet again) rewritten — in order to weaken — a statute that stands as a monument to America’s greatness, and protects against its basest impulses. What is tragic is that the Court has damaged a statute designed to bring about ‘the end of discrimination in voting.’”
The ruling arrives as battles over election integrity rage across the country. Just last week, the Biden Department of Justice filed suit against Georgia over its election security law. The Court’s ruling further showed the divide between left and right, with Democrats calling the decision a blow against voting rights and Republicans (and some independents) calling it a win for election integrity.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said, “Our complaint alleges that recent changes to Georgia’s election laws were enacted with the purpose of denying or abridging the right of Black Georgians to vote on account of their race or color, in violation of Section Two of the Voting Rights Act,” echoing Biden’s debunked claim that the law is “Jim Crow on steroids.”
Regarding the Arizona decision, Biden said, “In a span of just eight years, the Court has now done severe damage to two of the most important provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – a law that took years of struggle and strife to secure.”
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, however, praised the decision, saying, “Today is a win for election integrity safeguards in Arizona and across the country. Fair elections are the cornerstone of our republic, and they start with rational laws that protect both the right to vote and the accuracy of the results.”
The idea that these laws were specifically crafted to deny groups of people the right to vote is baseless. What is unreasonable or racist about wanting ballots to be handled by approved individuals or wanting ballots to be cast in their correct precincts?
These are restrictions that are already in place in many states, including Delaware, the home state of President Biden, which, among other things, does not permit early voting, out-of-precinct voting, or no-excuse absentee voting. Arizona, by contrast, offers a month of early voting by mail or in-person, as well as the option for voters to cast their vote at a traditional precinct location or a “voting center” in their county of residence.
As the Supreme Court noted, voting shouldn’t be overly burdensome but it also shouldn’t be completely effortless because while voting is a right, it is also a civic obligation. What’s more, a vote that is mishandled or canceled by fraud or sloppy administration is just as disenfranchising as some form of purposeful vote suppression.
In the aftermath of the 2020 election and other election debacles, such as, most recently, this year’s New York Mayor’s Democratic primary election when 135,000 test ballots were somehow included in the vote count, Americans are rightly worried about the integrity of elections and whether the vote they cast actually matters. It’s no wonder then that 75 percent of all Americans, and 69 percent of minorities, believe that voter ID should be required at the polls.
The government has a responsibility to take every possible precaution to ensure that voting is free from tampering, but for some reason the left is determined to remove any and all guardrails.
Whether it be the deceitfully named “For the People Act,” the war being waged against Georgia, or the Ninth Circuit’s decision on Arizona, the left wants full federal control over elections, no matter what Americans think or the Constitution says about states’ rights in this area.
Media outlets consistently refer to election security laws as “restrictive” and “racist.” The fact is that no one’s right to vote is infringed by these laws, except, of course, for the potential voter who is not eligible to vote but tries to do so anyway or a third-party activist who wants to hopes to use ballot harvesting to manipulate or pressure vulnerable populations to vote in a certain way.
The Supreme Court got this one right, and as a result, Arizona will likely see greater voter participation in 2022 as its residents feel much more confident that the vote they cast will actually count.