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Ballots laying on the sidewalk outside an apartment complex in Las Vegas ahead of Nevada's June 2020 primary. (Photo Courtesy of Jim M.)

Supreme Court upholds Arizona election integrity laws

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday sided on behalf of strengthened election integrity laws in a case involving Arizona.

The court, by a 6-3 vote, reversed a lower court ruling in deciding that Arizona’s limits on who can return early ballots for another person and refusal to count ballots cast in the wrong precinct are not racially discriminatory.

The decision ruled that Arizona can keep two voting laws in place, including one that bans the controversial practice of ballot harvesting. Ballot harvesting is the practice of outside groups gathering hundreds of thousands of signed ballots at once and is accused of being rife with fraud.

“Today is a win for election integrity safeguards in Arizona and across the country,” Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said in a statement on social media.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote for a conservative majority that the state’s interest in the integrity of elections justified the measures.

In dissent, Justice Elena Kagan wrote that the court was weakening the landmark voting rights law for the second time in eight years.

Brnovich argued before the nine-member Supreme Court, which has six conservative justices appointed by Republican presidents, in March, asking them to overturn an appeals court ruling against a 2016 Arizona law that limits who can return early ballots for another person.

He also wanted a separate state policy of discarding ballots if a voter goes to the wrong precinct to be upheld.

Brnovich filed the petitions in April 2020.

A federal appeals court ruled in January 2020 that Arizona’s 2016 anti-harvesting law, which bars anyone but a family member or caregiver from returning another person’s early ballot, violates the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution.

The court also rejected the state’s policy of discarding ballots if a voter went to the wrong precinct.

During arguments in February, the justices seemed likely to upend that ruling and allow the Arizona restrictions to remain in place.

Twenty two states are considering legislation to strengthen election laws to give voters confidence in the integrity of the election process.

–wire services