WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Monday, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the Ninth Circuit’s recent en banc decision that struck down Arizona laws restricting ballot harvesting and out-of-precinct voting.
In February of this year, the Attorney General’s Office obtained a stay of the Ninth Circuit’s decision, leaving Arizona’s laws restricting ballot harvesting and out-of-precinct voting in place for the time being.
Brnovich argues that with similar laws enacted in several other states, the case presents an appropriate vehicle to establish a clear rule of law for the country, and the Supreme Court can and should bring clarity to these important matters that are vital to our elections.
In 2016, Arizona passed HB 2023, restricting the practice of ballot harvesting in Arizona, unless the person collecting the ballot is a family member, a person living in the same household, or a caregiver.
Sergio Arellano, a southern Arizona native and community leader, stunned lawmakers when he spoke truth to power about the abuses of mostly minority voters by political operatives.
Arellano pleaded on behalf of the people of his eight poorest metropolitan area in the country before the visibly shaken Larkin. He advised the Education Committee members that he was sharing his neighbors’ stories of fraud because they could not. “’Mijito,’” said Arellano repeating the story one elderly woman told him, “’I don’t know who I voted for. Some guy came up, picked up my ballot and said I’ll take it for you.’” Arellano asked the woman if she had voted the ballot, and she replied in the negative. She told him, “’He just came over and he said I’m with the elections office and you have to turn in your ballot now.”
Arizona has required people to vote at their specific precinct since the 1970’s. However, several arms of the Democratic Party (DNC) filed suit in 2016 to challenge the out-of-precinct policy and the ballot-collection policy. Arizona has prevailed in its legal defense numerous times, including at a 10-day-trial where the court heard from seven experts and 33 witnesses.
According to the Attorney General, about 20 states have ballot harvesting laws substantially similar to Arizona or impose various regulations on ballot harvesting that could be invalidated as a result of the Ninth Circuit’s decision. Additionally, a majority of states require ballots to be cast in the correct precinct. The Attorney General’s Office argues that invalidating Arizona’s elections policies threatens other similar sensible voter integrity and election laws across the country.
“Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of American democracy, and I will continue to do everything in my power to protect the integrity of our ballots,” said Attorney General Mark Brnovich. “Arizonans are best suited to decide which safeguards are needed for our elections, not the Ninth Circuit. This lawsuit has broad implications for the rest of the country, and we are optimistic the Supreme Court will take this case and provide clarity for the rule of law.”
The bipartisan Commission on Federal Election Reform chaired by former-President Jimmy Carter and former-Secretary of State James Baker (“Carter-Baker Commission”) recommended that States “prohibit a person from handling absentee ballots other than the voter, an acknowledged family member, the U.S. Postal Service or other legitimate shipper, or election officials.” The Carter-Baker Commission found, “[a]bsentee ballots remain the largest source of potential voter fraud.”
The Attorney General believes that restricting 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.
Ryan Anderson, a top aide to Brnovich, summed up the rationale for the Attorney General’s decision to turn to the Supreme Court, “Secretary Hobbs has more flip-flops on this issue than a Jimmy Buffett concert. Someone has to defend the law when the Secretary won’t do her job.”