The Supreme Court maintained Arizona voting regulations that limit ballot harvesting and provisional ballot submission outside of one’s home precinct, following a challenge from the Democratic National Committee.
In a 6-3 decision on Thursday, June 1, the court ruled that neither the policy requiring provisional ballots to be completely disregarded if submitted at the wrong precinct nor the law making it a felony to submit another person’s ballot (with limited exceptions) violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, Fox News reported.
The decision overturned a ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. It came only a week after the Biden administration launched a lawsuit against Georgia, saying that the state’s new election integrity-promoting law amounts to “voter suppression.” Brian Kemp, the state’s Republican governor, said the DOJ’s lawsuit was “legally and constitutionally dead wrong.”
The court’s decision was split exactly along partisan lines, with the six conservative justices selected by Republican presidents voted to uphold the state legislation. In comparison, the three liberal justices voted to overturn it.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the dispute revolved around two rules that “prohibit[ed] third parties from collecting mail-in ballots” and “disallow[ed] votes cast in the wrong precinct.”
CNBC reported the “ballot collection law” prevents most persons, excluding family members, from collecting and delivering mail-in ballots to their respective polls.
The other rule dubbed the “out-of-precinct policy,” effectively eliminates “ballot harvesting” by removing ballots cast in the incorrect precinct from the equation.
A federal appeals court had previously ruled that the two rules violated the Voting Rights Act because they disproportionately impacted minorities, Western Journal reported.
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito offered the Court’s majority opinion, claiming that neither rule violated the law.
“Held: Arizona’s out-of-precinct policy and HB 2023 do not violate §2 of the VRA, and HB 2023 was not enacted with a racially discriminatory purpose,” he wrote, as reported by The Guardian.
“A procedure that appears to work for 98% or more of voters to whom it applies—minority and non-minority alike—is unlikely to render a system unequally open,” he added.
Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett joined Chief Justice John Roberts in their agreement.
Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor, all of whom were chosen by Democratic presidents, voted against the decision.
“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,” Kagan wrote in her dissent, according to The Associated Press.
“What is tragic is that the Court has damaged a statute designed to bring about ‘the end of discrimination in voting.’ I respectfully dissent.”
However, Justice Alito argued that under Arizona’s existing system, voting is “very easy” and that requiring state citizens to find their exact polling site and then drive to that area “does not exceed the “not exceed the ‘usual burdens of voting.’”
Apart from the polling location rule, Alito argued in favor of the data collection measure, claiming that Democrats failed to demonstrate the law’s “disparate impact” and that, even if it did, the impact would be so minor that it would not violate the Voting Rights Act because the rule’s origin was not discriminatory, according to CNBC.
According to CNBC, a lower court determined that on election day, the number of minorities who cast ballots in the wrong precincts approached 1%, while the rate of non-minority voters who made the same mistake was around 0.5 percent.
On Twitter, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich expressed his gratitude for the decision.
“I am thankful the justices upheld states’ ability to pass and maintain commonsense election laws, at a time when our country needs it most,” he wrote on Thursday.
The Court’s decision comes at a critical time in establishing the importance of election integrity, and it sets a precedent for future cases.
JUST IN: #SCOTUS rules in favor of Arizona’s election integrity protections in 𝑩𝒓𝒏𝒐𝒗𝒊𝒄𝒉 𝒗 𝑫𝑵𝑪. I am thankful the justices upheld states’ ability to pass and maintain commonsense election laws, at a time when our country needs it most.— Mark Brnovich (@GeneralBrnovich) July 1, 2021
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