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Zoom has taken over us all – even the United States Supreme Court. I listened live Tuesday (which is a miracle in and of itself) to oral argument in a case involving the claim that there are restrictions on voting rights in the state of Arizona. The case involves Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act that prohibits voting practices that discriminate on the practice of race, color or minority status.
In Arizona, there are portions of the state which are extremely remote, many of them inhabited entirely or mostly by Native Americans, where there is no home mail delivery and very few people own cars. In these locations, people give their ballots to family or others to hand in for them. When they give their ballots to “others,” that practice is called ballot harvesting, and it’s prohibited by law. This case asked whether it should be.
Supreme Court questions on voting rights vs. infringement
Justice Amy Coney Barrett: “If it takes one opportunity away, I guess I still don’t understand why that isn’t reducing the opportunity of those voters to vote relative to other white voters who don’t share that burden?”
Judge Barrett and Judge Sonia Sotomayor seemed to lean toward voter rights in their questions, although court watchers know you can never trust a justice’s questions to know how he or she will ultimately vote in the decision.
There were several justices who seemed to be against any kind of ballot harvesting, even under apparent discriminatory circumstances.
Chief Justice John Roberts: “You’re aware of the reports on ballot harvesting that this kind of voting is the largest source of potential voter fraud?” he asked. (Please listen to the recording if you can. You can glean so much from the voices of the justices.)
Justice Neil Gorsuch: “Can Arizona have laws that prevent fraud in balloting?” Counsel responds yes. He pursues the harvesting question. “If that’s the case, can the state have some laws that try to prevent fraud in balloting? How many states, how many elections, does it (ballot harvesting) have to effect out-of-state before Arizona can act?”
In addition to ballot harvesting, another question the lawsuit involved was voting in the wrong precinct. Can your vote be counted if you vote in the wrong precinct, particularly when the precinct was recently changed? Justice Barrett asked counsel for the RNC why they are interested in defending the laws about voting in another precinct. Counsel for the RNC explained that the RNC is interested in the laws because politics is a zero-sum game.
That about sums it up.
Amanda Dickson is the co-host of Utah’s Morning News and the host of A Woman’s View on KSL NewsRadio. You can hear her weekday mornings on 102.7 FM and 1160 AM, as well as catch her talk show on Sundays. She also holds a law degree and has witnessed Supreme Court arguments in person for KSL in the past.
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