No, Arizona’s Election Law is Not Voter Suppression

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court, by a 6-3 decision, upheld two provisions of Arizona voting law.  The majority rejected the arguments by Democrats and civil rights groups that the provisions disproportionately burdened minority voters.

From the outrage by some on the left, you would have thought that the Court ruling allows Arizona to put up blockades to keep minority voters out of polling places or imposed a poll tax like in the bad old days of Jim Crow.

“The current conservative majority on the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice John Roberts, shows no interest in thwarting this attack on democracy and protecting Americans’ fundamental constitutional right to vote,” opined the New York Times.

So, what are these egregious constitutional impediments the Court so callously allowed?

First, the Court upheld the requirement that a vote in person on election day must be cast in the precinct where the voter is registered.   A ballot cast in the wrong precinct is not counted.

The majority agreed with an earlier District Court ruling which said that the out-of-precinct policy had no “meaningfully disparate impact” on minority voters.   It is also worth noting that if a voter shows up at the wrong precinct, poll workers are trained to direct the voter to the correct precinct.

Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority, said, “Having to identify one’s polling place and then travel there to vote does not exceed the usual burdens of voting.”  In addition, Alito pointed out, Arizona sent “a sample ballot to each household that includes a voter’s proper polling location.”

Second, the Court upheld the provision that prohibits ballot harvesting.  That practice allows third parties to collect multiple absentee ballots from voters and potentially influence their voting or tamper with the ballots.

The challenged Arizona law allows Arizonans who receive early ballots to submit them by mail, at a post office, at an early ballot drop box or an election official’s office within the 27-day early voting period.  A family member, household member or caregiver can deliver the ballot on behalf of a voter.

Alito’s opinion refers to the findings of the bipartisan Commission on Federal Election Reform of 2004, chaired by former President Jimmy Carter and James Baker.  It found that “citizens who vote at home, at nursing homes, at the workplace, or in church are more susceptible to pressure, overt and subtle, or to intimidation.”

“Vote buying scheme are far more difficult to detect when citizens vote by mail,” the report concluded. “States therefore should reduce the risks of vote fraud and abuse in absentee voting by prohibiting third-party organizations, candidates, and political party activists from handling absentee ballots.”

That is exactly what the Arizona law does.

Requiring a modicum of effort on the part of the voter while imposing restrictions known to reduce the threat of voting irregularities is hardly the stuff of “voter suppression.” It does not threaten the fundamental rights of minority voters.



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