US appeals court upholds Arizona ballot collection law
PHOENIX – A U.S. appeals court affirmed Wednesday that minorities are not discriminated against when Arizona bars outside groups from collecting voters’ early ballots or when the state discards ballots cast in the wrong precinct.
With the ruling, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals handed a victory to the state’s Republican leadership by saying Democratic plaintiffs failed to prove either election practice was discriminatory.
“A precinct voting system, by itself, does not have such a causal effect,” the panel wrote in its decision upholding a lower court ruling. “Such a common electoral practice is a minimum requirement – like the practice of registration – that does not impose anything beyond ‘the usual burdens of voting.'”
The court also found that the Republican-controlled Legislature did not intend to discriminate when it passed the 2016 law against early ballot gathering.
National and state Democratic groups argue both practices disproportionately affect minority voters. Chief Judge Sidney Thomas, the lone dissenting voice on the three-member 9th Circuit panel, echoed that sentiment. Thomas argued criminalizing ballot collecting is meant to keep minority voters away.
“We can’t let laws stand when they clearly and unambiguously harm minority voters,” said Sabrina Singh, a spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee, which plans to appeal.
The office of Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan, a Republican and one of the defendants, lauded the decision.
“Secretary Reagan worked hard to get this commonsense legislation passed and was very pleased that the courts have upheld it yet again,” spokesman Darron Moffatt said in a statement.
A federal judge denied a challenge to the ballot collection law in May in a lawsuit filed shortly after it was passed. Early Democratic efforts to block the law failed and the case went to a full trial before that same judge last year.