WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Attorney General Mark Brnovich continued his defense of Arizona's authority to enact laws that prevent multiple voting, protect against voter intimidation, preserve the secrecy of the ballot, and safeguard election integrity. AG Brnovich is asking the Supreme Court of the United States to review the Ninth Circuit's recent en banc decision that inexplicably reversed itself, and struck down Arizona laws restricting ballot harvesting and out-of-precinct voting.
In February of this year, AG Brnovich 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. With similar laws enacted in several other states, the Attorney General's Office argues this 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.
“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."
Arizona, like other states, has adopted rules over the years to promote the order and integrity of its 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. 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.
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.
The opposing side will have 30 days to reply to Arizona’s petition for review. From there, the Supreme Court will issue a decision whether to accept the case.
In 2016, the DNC challenged Arizona’s laws restricting ballot harvesting and out-of-precinct voting. A federal district court judge ruled in Arizona's favor and upheld the laws. The case was then appealed to a 3-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court, and that panel also upheld Arizona's laws. The DNC then appealed the case to a larger group of Ninth Circuit Court judges, who struck down the laws, a mere four days before the 2016 General Election. AG Brnovich immediately appealed to the Supreme Court and the very next day, the High Court overruled the Ninth Circuit, reinstating Arizona’s ballot harvesting and out-of-precinct laws, pending a full hearing of the merits in the lower court.
Late in 2018, a federal district court judge once again upheld Arizona’s laws after a 10-day trial. DNC attorneys appealed the case to a 3-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit, who again upheld Arizona's laws. DNC then appealed the case to a larger group of Ninth Circuit judges and the court reversed itself in early 2020 and struck down the laws just as ballots for the Democratic Presidential Preference Election were beginning to be mailed out. AG Brnovich immediately filed for a stay of the decision and the Ninth Circuit granted the request, leaving Arizona's restrictions on ballot harvesting and out-of-precinct voting presently intact.
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. 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.”