This week, the Supreme Court is likely to rule on two Arizona voting regulations which a lower court held were violations of the Voting Rights Act.
The first regards a 2016 regulation that made a phenomenon known as “ballot harvesting” a felony in Arizona. HB 2023 allowed judges to impose a presumptive one-year prison term and potential $150,000 fine on civic and political groups who turn early ballots into the polls. Arizona joined 18 other states in the passing of this regulation. Arizona law only allows certain persons, such as family and household members, caregivers, mail carriers and elections officials, to handle another person’s completed early ballot.
After signing the bill, Gov. Doug Ducey said in a statement that the bill “ensures a secure chain of custody between the voter and the ballot box.”
The second law in question is the practice of discarding ballots cast at the wrong precinct, called provisional ballots. Several U.S. states partially count provisional ballots, used when an election official is unable to immediately determine a person’s eligibility to vote.
The justices will rule on whether these voting regulations violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act or the 15th Amendment, which bars enactment of any voting practice or procedure, resulting in the “denial or abridgment” of the right to vote based on race or color.
Democrats disagree on whether the two laws should remain. The Democratic National Committee is opposed to the rules, but the Biden administration told the court that the laws passed legal muster.
Lawyers representing Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s office said in their oral arguments that, for the rules to be a Section 2 violation, it must be shown that the law produces a “substantial” disparate impact. He said the laws at issue are “commonsense” and “commonplace” ways to prevent voter fraud.
Those in opposition to the regulations claimed that out-of-precinct voting regulations and the ban on ballot collection have “a disparate effect on Hispanic, Native-American, and African-American voters in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.”
The Court is expected to release its final two opinions on Brnovich v. Democratic National Convention and Arizona Republican Party v. Democratic National Committee on Thursday, July 1.
As we move through 2023 and into the next election cycle, The Prickly Pear will resume Take Action recommendations and information.