Supreme Court Upholds Arizona Ban on Ballot Harvesting

On Saturday morning, the Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit’s ruling involving an Arizona law, H.B. 2023, that bans “ballot harvesting” by making it “a felony for anyone other than election officials, mail carriers, family members, or caregivers to collect early voting ballots.”

In that order, the Ninth Circuit would have allowed ballot harvesting until there was a final disposition the question.

ORDER IN PENDING CASE 16A460 AZ SEC. OF STATE’S OFFICE, ET AL. V. FELDMAN, LESLIE, ET AL. The application for stay presented to Justice Kennedy and by him referred to the Court is granted. The injunction issued by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on November 4, 2016, in case No. 16-16698, is stayed pending final disposition of the appeal by that court.

The lower court ruling favored challenges to the law because as challengers argued, it violates the Voting Rights Act.

In their brief to the Supreme Court, challengers cited Arizona’s “long history of racial discrimination” and that ballot “harvesting” has been “one of the most popular and effective methods of minority voting in Arizona.” Furthermore, the law imposes its burdens disproportionately on minority voters who face obstacles to either voting in person or delivering their early voting ballots themselves. As an example, challengers pointed to an Indian community, the Tohono O’odham Nation. The community occupies roughly the same land size as Connecticut but has only one post office and no home mail delivery.

In response to supporters’ claims that the law is an anti-fraud measure, voting rights activists pointed to a recurring fact in these cases: the law’s supporters could not point to a single incident of ballot-collection fraud.

Justice Kennedy is responsible for the region and could have issued a response by himself. However, he opted to refer the matter to the full court, which issued a 2 sentence order, declining to state reasons for its decision. There is no way of knowing which, if any, justices dissented from the order.

Previously, the Supreme Court has ruled against last minute changes to election laws to avoid confusion at the polls. So this order isn’t an indicator of how the Court would rule on the question of ballot harvesting. However, for the purposes of this election, Arizona’s ban on ballot harvesting will be in effect.