Supreme Court to rule on Arizona voting laws as term comes to close

By Howard Fischer | Capitol Media Services 

It’s not just the future of whether Arizona gets to keep its ban on “ballot harvesting” that the U.S. Supreme Court will decide this week.

Hanging in the balance could be how far Arizona — and other states — get to go in enacting new restrictions on registration and voting, particularly when they are found to have disparate effect on minorities.

On paper, the justices are looking at the simple question of whether the state can regulate who can take someone else’s voted early ballot to a polling place. That had been the practice of some civic groups in Arizona for years.

They would go door to door and ask people if they had remembered to return their early ballot. And, given that a ballot has to be received by 7 p.m. on Election Day, they offered to take it to a polling place rather than risk it not arriving on time.

In 2016, however, the Republican-controlled legislature voted to make that a felony. The law has only a handful of exceptions, like family members, people living in the same household and caregivers.

Proponents argued that this would prevent fraud.

But during legislative debate supporters could not cite a single instance of someone’s early ballot being stolen, manipulated or discarded. In fact, J.D. Mesnard, then a state representative from Chandler and now a senator, argued that it’s irrelevant whether there 

“What is indisputable is that many people believe it’s happening,” he said. “And I think that matters.”

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