Why SCOTUS’ Willingness to Make Decision on Arizona Election Integrity Lawsuits Gives GOP Hope

On 2 March, the US Supreme Court heard an oral argument on the Arizona case concerning the legality of the state’s prohibition of ballot harvesting and out-of-precinct voting. The dispute comes at a time when the Dems are pushing ahead with the H.R. 1 bill, which legalises ballot harvesting and loosens voting restrictions and verification rules.

The Supreme Court’s decision to take up the Brnovich vs DNC case is regarded as a breakthrough by conservatives given that earlier the court dismissed the GOP-initiated legal challenges over supposed election irregularities in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona, Georgia, and Michigan during the 2020 vote.

Commenting on the Supreme Court’s rejection of the Pennsylvania election rules case on 22 February, Justice Clarence Thomas warned the court it was missing “an ideal opportunity to address just what authority non-legislative officials have to set election rules, and to do so well before the next election cycle.”

How Dems Used ‘Race Card’ to Target Arizona Election Rules

The case brought in by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich is seeking to affirm that the state’s rules restricting ballot harvesting by third parties and out-of-precinct policy, which doesn’t count ballots cast in person on Election Day outside voters’ assigned precincts, are legitimate and important for ensuring the state’s election integrity.

In addition to this, this case presents “a superb vehicle to establish a clear rule of law” which is vital for the American democracy, Brnovich’s petition says. “The challenged provisions are commonplace, the claims here represent a growing number of election cases,” the Arizona attorney general wrote, stressing that “thus, this Court’s decision will have broad impact.”

Arizona’s out-of precinct policy and the ballot-collection law were first challenged by “several arms of the Democratic Party (DNC)” ahead of the 2016 general elections, under the pretext that the provisions violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments as well as Section 2 of Voting Rights Act by impacting the electoral opportunities of ethnic minorities.

The DNC further alleged that the rule prohibiting unlimited third party ballot harvesting was enacted specifically to “suppress voting by Hispanic and Native American voters.” While arguing that this was not the case, Brnovich highlighted that the ballot harvesting practice is fraught with risks of “undue influence, fraud, ballot tampering, and voter intimidation.” Similarly, Arizona’s out-of-precinct policy is aimed at maintaining order at polling stations, avoiding overcrowding, and most importantly “mak[ing] it easier for election officials to monitor votes and prevent election fraud,” the petition specifies.

While the provisions in question were in place during the 2016 and 2020 general elections in Arizona, on 27 January 2021 the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that Arizona’s “ballot harvesting” law discriminates against minority voters and stated that discarding the provisional ballots of voters from wrong precincts was illegal too.

Judge William A. Fletcher, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton, insisted that Arizona’s strict election rules were racially motivated and “the anti-fraud rationale” advanced in their support “seem[ed] to have been contrived.”

The Ninth Circuit’s en banc decision prompted the Arizona attorney general to turn to the Supreme Court. It’s expected that SCOTUS will make a decision on the state’s election rules laws by summer 2021.

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