This week the U.S. Court of Appeals struck down two Arizona voter suppression laws on the ground that they violate the Voting Rights Act by discriminating against Hispanics and Native Americans.
The 2016 law prohibited anyone other than family members and caretakers from delivering a voter’s mail-in ballot. Ballot harvesting, as it’s called, was a practice rooted in some rural communities, on reservations, and in some ethnic neighborhoods. The ballots were not being illegally filled out. The signatures had to be matched. The ballots had to be verified. Volunteers collected ballots from voters and delivered them to election officials. The Republicans running the state said the law was meant to protect the integrity of the voting process. The Court found that excuse was contrived and that the real intent of the bill was voter suppression among communities of color, a clear violation of the U.S. Voting Rights Act.
The court also struck down another Arizona law that prohibited the counting of provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct.
Only rarely will a court admit what every reasonable observer should already know: The disproportionate impact of these laws on minority voters is no coincidence; it is exactly what legislators intended. Of course, our Republican Attorney-General has announced an appeal even in the face of this blistering decision.
Tonight, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who was substituted as a nominal defendant in the case when she defeated the incumbent Republican in 2018. Hobbs adamantly does not support an appeal, saying:
“I will continue to condemn any efforts to create unnecessary barriers to voting, especially when those obstacles are based on hyperbolic fears,” Hobbs said. “I opposed [the ballot-harvesting] law when it was being considered by the legislature, and nothing has changed since then. The court made the right call for voters in this state. I hope the Attorney General’s Office recognizes that this issue is a red herring that undermines confidence in our democracy.”
As to the out-of-precinct provisional ballots, Hobbs said:
“Based on conversations with county recorders and election officials in all 15 counties, I am confident in their ability to address the issues associated with out-of-precinct voting without needlessly extending this litigation. Let’s focus on ensuring voting is secure and accessible.”Ibid.