If you were under the impression that the courts were finished ruling on mail-in ballot regulations and other hot-button election issues now that Joe Biden is president, you would be sorely mistaken.
According to the Washington Examiner, the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments in March on whether a pair of Republican-backed voting provisions in Arizona are discriminatory against minority voters in the state.
At issue are two regulations that Democrats argue suppress the voting voice of the state’s Black, Latino, and Native American communities, including a controversial method of collecting absentee ballots known as “ballot harvesting” and a provision that invalidates a ballot if it was cast in a precinct that doesn’t match the voter’s registered home address.
The fight around those issues is not new, as there have been a number of court battles regarding those concerns stemming back to 2008, the Examiner notes. However, the pandemic-driven increase in mail-in and absentee voting in the 2020 election thrust the topics back into the spotlight.
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Arizona Republican Party requested that the high court have the final say on the issues and determine if they are, in fact, discriminatory against Arizona’s minority voters.
The DNC has issued strong language regarding both practices in the past, calling the out-of-precinct ballot invalidation policy one of “the most punishing” in the entire country, according to the Examiner, and claiming that it has disenfranchised tens of thousands of minority voters for over a decade.
The organization also argued that the practice of ballot harvesting — where third-party carriers collect ballots from a certain area — is necessary because many voters in minority communities lack the ability to find transportation to the voting booth. They charge Republicans with purposely making the rule to disenfranchise those voters, who tend to lean left.
“Commonsense election provisions”
Arizona GOP officials, along with high-profile politicians like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and the former administration of President Donald Trump, argue that those provisions decrease the potential for ballot fraud, however.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) said minority voters still have an equal chance to vote using other methods, adding that the policies are “commonsense election provisions” that go a long way to protect the integrity of the vote, the Examiner reported.
Originally, a district court ruled in favor of the Republicans’ viewpoint, keeping the policies in place. In 2020, however, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided the opposite, citing statistics that indicated that the two policies did, in fact, lead to lower voter turnout in minority communities.
Interestingly, the then-incoming Biden administration originally agreed with the Trump White House in the belief that the two policies do not amount to racial discrimination. However, just last week, Deputy Solicitor General Edwin Kneedler sent a letter to the high court saying that while the Biden Justice Department “does not disagree with the conclusion” of its predecessor, there are some points of contention, The Daily Signal reported.
Only time will tell how the Supreme Court rules on the matter, but no matter the decision, it will likely have far-reaching implications all across the country as other states either abandon those same practices or begin to adopt similar provisions for their own elections going forward.