Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear an appeal of the rejection of a law banning “ballot harvesting,” or collection of ballots by third parties. And he makes some strong arguments.
Most Arizonans get early ballots each time and can simply drop them in the mail. However, many put it off, in the way that voter turnout is not as high as it should be. The 2016 law limits those handling ballots to family members, postal workers and caregivers, certainly a reasonable rule since everyone has access to the mail. But the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, known for its leftward lean, said “no” because Arizona has a history of racism going back to territorial days. Unfortunately, too many things are cast in a racial light these days.
Brnovich counters in his filing that taking that approach could overrule other election laws in Arizona and other states. Twenty other states have similar measures, and a 2005 commission co-chaired by former President Jimmy Carter said states should prohibit outsiders from handling ballots.
Brnovich summed the issue up clearly by writing, “Prohibiting unlimited third-party ballot harvesting is a commonsense means of protecting the secret ballot and preventing undue influence, voter fraud, ballot tampering and voter intimidation.” He’s right: The law is not a means of suppressing the minority vote.
We can only hope that the Supreme Court takes up the matter and provides a favorable ruling. Unfortunately, the court under Chief Justice John Roberts sometimes is too timid, as shown in a recent lukewarm ruling about the right of New Yorkers to carry their legal firearms to shooting ranges. The court avoided a full-force support of the Second Amendment, apparently afraid of political backlash, saying New York already had changed the law.
The courts often are too eager to take away rights in the name of protecting some other claimed right, but Brnovich, as usual, makes a compelling case.