WASHINGTON, D.C. - Attorney General Mark Brnovich argued to protect Arizona’s commonsense election integrity laws before the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) on Tuesday morning. The Attorney General’s Office (AGO) is asking the High Court to uphold two Arizona laws that place restrictions on ballot harvesting and prohibit out-of-precinct voting. At the heart of the case is whether states can pass laws to protect the integrity of elections.
“There is no more sacred duty for a public servant than preserving both the people’s right to vote and their confidence in the election process,” said Attorney General Mark Brnovich. “Arizona’s ballot box safeguards are shared by many states, were recommended by a bipartisan commission, and are constitutional because they equally protect us all.”
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) has been challenging Arizona’s restrictions on out-of-precinct voting and ballot harvesting since 2016.
Since the 1970s, Arizona has required voters who vote in-person to cast ballots at their assigned precinct, where voter rolls can be easily accessed and confirmed. This rational measure ensures order in our elections, minimizes lines, and prevents anyone from being disenfranchised in local races. Today, the majority of states require people to vote at their assigned precinct.
Arizona also restricts the collection and delivery of ballots by third-parties or political operatives, commonly known as ballot harvesting. The Arizona Legislature passed the law in 2016, with exceptions for family, caregivers, mail carriers, and election officials. In 2015, the City of Phoenix warned of reports of unauthorized individuals claiming to be city officials going door-to-door to collect early ballots. Civil Rights leaders had also raised concerns about elderly and vulnerable communities being targeted by ballot harvesting activists. In December 2020, the AGO indicted two individuals from Yuma County for allegedly engaging in ballot harvesting.
And in 2005, the bipartisan Commission on Federal Election Reform, chaired by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker (Carter-Baker Commission), recognized that “absentee ballots remain the largest source of potential voter fraud.” The Carter-Baker Commission recommended that states prohibit third-parties from handling absentee ballots, except for family members, the post office, or election officials (the same exceptions included in the Arizona law).
The DNC claims Arizona’s restrictions on ballot harvesting and out-of-precinct voting violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the ballot harvesting restriction was also enacted with discriminatory intent. Attorney General Brnovich argued Tuesday morning that Arizona’s laws were proper under the Voting Rights Act and U.S. Constitution, something even the Biden Justice Department acknowledged in a recent SCOTUS filing.
SCOTUS is expected to make a decision by this Summer.
A transcript of Attorney General Brnovich's opening and closing statements can be viewed here.
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 of Appeals, where the laws were again upheld. The DNC then appealed 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 U.S. 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.
In late 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 election integrity laws. Once again, the DNC appealed the case to a larger group of Ninth Circuit judges, and in early 2020 the court reversed itself 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 laws on ballot harvesting and out-of-precinct voting intact.
In April 2020, General Brnovich asked SCOTUS to rule on Arizona’s laws being challenged.
In October 2020, SCOTUS agreed to hear Arizona’s case, which has garnered an outpouring of support from local and national leaders seeking to maintain the integrity of elections in Arizona and across the country.