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High Court to Hear GOP Bid to Reimpose Arizona Voting Restrictions

October 2, 2020 by Dan McCue
Outside the U.S. Supreme Court building. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to consider a bid by Arizona Republicans to overturn a lower court ruling that struck down recently imposed voting restrictions in the state.

In January, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals invalidated the restrictions, holding they disproportionately burdened Black, Hispanic and Native American voters, and therefore violated the Voting Rights Act.

The underlying dispute stems from a Republican-backed 2016 state law that made it a crime to hand someone else’s completed early ballot to election officials, with the exception of family members or caregivers.

The issue is ballot collection, which is legal in most states, with some limitations.

Twenty-six states allow voters to designate someone to return their ballot for them, 10 allow family members to do so, while the rest require voters to return their own ballot or are silent on the issue.

Advocates for the practice, including the plaintiff Democratic National Committee and the Arizona Democratic Party, say it increases voter participation, but critics maintain it dramatically increases the odds of fraud.

The Arizona restrictions on the practice will remain in effect for the Nov. 3 presidential election because the 9th Circuit put its ruling on hold pending the state’s appeal to the Supreme Court.

The second issue in the case revolves around a longstanding state policy that discards provisional ballots cast in-person at a precinct other than the one to which a voter has been assigned.

In some places, a voter’s precinct is not the closest precinct to their home. Provisional ballots are those cast when a voter does not appear on that precinct’s voter rolls.

Nearly 30,000 out-of-precinct ballots were tossed out during the 2008, 2012 and 2016 presidential elections in Arizona, according to court filings.

As is their custom, the justices did not explain their rationale for taking up the case.

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