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Decision Aligns With Project 21 Brief Against Ballot Harvesting, Out-of-Precinct Voting

Washington, D.C. – Affirming a major safeguard for voter integrity, the U.S. Supreme Court today upheld an Arizona ban on “ballot harvesting.” Members of the Project 21 black leadership network said this decision, coupled with the recent defeat of pro-harvesting legislation in the U.S. Senate, represents a decisive blow against the infamous election practice.

Horace Cooper

Horace Cooper

“Today the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the right of state legislatures to adopt voter integrity measures offering all voters an equal opportunity to vote,” said Project 21 Co-Chairman Horace Cooper. “There is a huge difference between partisan advantage and racial advantage. Thankfully, the Court pushed away the progressive theory that courts should constitutionalize partisan electioneering rules by treating them as if they are racial ones. To do otherwise would invite the federal courts to completely take over all aspects of elections: redistricting, voting hours, polling sites and registration – all of which our Founders opposed.”

The Court’s decision in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee upheld the constitutionality of an Arizona law prohibiting ballot harvesting – a voting practice in which random individuals, even hired employees, can collect and submit completed ballots. The Court also upheld the ability to disqualify provisional ballots not cast in assigned voting precincts. These laws were challenged as violations of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the 15th Amendment’s protection from racial discrimination infringing upon voting rights.

In today’s decision, the 6-3 majority ruled that the ban on ballot harvesting and disqualification of miscast votes “was not enacted with a racially discriminatory purpose.” In his majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito wrote:

Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act provides vital protection against discriminatory voting rules, and no one suggests that discrimination in voting has been extirpated or that the threat has been eliminated. But Section 2 does not deprive the States of their authority to establish non-discriminatory voting rules, and that is precisely what the dissent’s radical interpretation would mean in practice. The dissent is correct that the Voting Rights Act exemplifies our country’s commitment to democracy, but there is nothing democratic about the dissent’s attempt to bring about a wholesale transfer of the authority to set voting rules from the States to the federal courts.

Last week, legislation failed in the U.S. Senate that would have legalized ballot harvesting operations nationwide. It would have overturned several state protections already being enforced, and would have even allowed paid third parties to collect ballots.

“The Supreme Court majority correctly ruled today that trust and integrity in our elections are the fundamental bedrock of a healthy and thriving republic. Unconstitutional measures such as ballot harvesting and allowing voters to cast their votes outside of their assigned precincts greatly undermines the electoral process,” said Project 21 member Christopher Arps. “It’s ironic that ballot harvesting was prominently included in the recently-defeated and grossly misnamed ‘For the People Act.’ But we must remain vigilant to safeguard voting integrity. We have unfortunately witnessed that those who want a permanent progressive voting majority will stop at almost nothing – legal or illegal – to achieve that aim.”

Project 21 joined an amici curiae (“friends of the court”) brief in the Brnovich case that was written by the Pacific Legal Foundation and also joined by the Center for Equal Opportunity. The brief asked the Court to decide “between two fundamentally different interpretations of the Voting Rights Act,” and argued:

Reasonable minds can and do differ as to whether these policies are advisable or necessary. But neither policy imposes a racially discriminatory burden on voting. And neither policy deprives any Arizona voter of the equal opportunity to cast a legal ballot.

“To be clear, this case is not about invidious racial discrimination,” added Cooper. “It is instead a case about whether local and state governments can adopt election rules even when one of the two major political parties claims it is disadvantaged by the changes. The Constitution bars race-based electioneering, not partisanship.”

Vince Ellison

Vince Ellison

“The Supreme Court gets it right!” declared Project 21 member Vince Ellison. “A 2005 bipartisan report conducted by former President Jimmy Carter and Secretary of State James Baker concluded that ballot harvesting and unlimited mail-in voting should be avoided, calling them “the largest source of potential voting fraud.” But what did the liberals do? They sought to codify both into law across our nation.”

To schedule an interview with a member of Project 21 on this or other issues, contact Judy Kent at (703) 477-7476.

Project 21, a leading voice of black conservatives for over 25 years, is sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research. Its members have been quoted, interviewed or published over 40,000 times since the program was created in 1992. Contributions to the National Center are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated, and may be earmarked exclusively for the use of Project 21.

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Author: The National Center