Arizona’s ban on ‘ballot harvesting” was illegal, circuit court rules

Ballots delivered by mail that may be compromised./Getty

Arizona’s law making it a crime to return someone else’s early ballot is illegal, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday.

In a divided decision, the majority concluded that the Republican-controlled Legislature enacted the restriction in 2016 with the goal of suppressing minority votes. And Justice William Fletcher, a President Clinton appointee writing for the majority, said the record shows that HB 2023 had that effect, reports Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services.

The court also voided a separate provision which says that the entire ballot is discarded if someone votes in the wrong precinct on Election Day. The judges said the state should count the votes that would have been legal had the person been at the right place, such as for a statewide office like governor.

Monday’s ruling drew an angry reaction from Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, who pushed the legislation through the process.

 “Bull hockey,” she told Capitol Media Services when informed of the ruling. “They’re just a liberal court.”

And Ugenti-Rita said it was never her motivation to suppress minority votes, which are more likely to go to Democrats.

She also dismissed as irrelevant the court’s findings that there was no real evidence that allowing individuals to collect the ballots of others ever resulted in fraud.

Four of the 11 justices that heard the case filed separate dissents saying they found nothing illegal about the policies.

Ugenti-Rita is now hoping for U.S. Supreme Court review.

What’s behind “ballot harvesting” is the fact that most Arizonans receive early ballots. They can be filled out and mailed back or delivered to polling places on Election Day.

But the law requires mailed ballots to be delivered by Election Day. So anything dropped in a mailbox within a week or so may not get counted.

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