The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision upholding election laws in Arizona that ban ballot harvesting and require people to vote within their own precinct are a boost to Pennsylvania GOP efforts to tighten ballot security in the Keystone State.
Ballot harvesting, the practice of sending political operatives and activists to pick up voters’ ballots, was also outlawed in a Republican-led election reform bill for Pennsylvania that Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, vetoed this past week.
“Limiting the classes of persons who may handle early ballots to those less likely to have ulterior motives deters potential fraud and improves voter confidence,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority. “And it should go without saying that a State may take action to prevent election fraud without waiting for it to occur and be detected within its own borders.” The court also held that the Arizona legislature had no discriminatory intent when it required voters to vote at their assigned precinct if voting in person.
State Rep. Seth Grove (R-York), acting chairman of the House State Government Committee, was pleased with the Supreme Court decision.
“I think it reflects the simple fact that access and security are not mutually exclusive,” said Grove. If a system is too secure “nobody can vote.” But if it’s too lax “fraudsters” and other bad actors, including foreign governments, can intervene.
“I think they did a good job backing states’ rights and the right of a secure election,” Grove said. “It’s a good thing they backed the Arizona laws.”
“HB 1300 (which Wolf vetoed) would have provided ballot harvesting protection along with voter identification,” Grove said. “Voter identification has been long decided by the Supreme Court. We support access and also integrity.”
“Arizona law requires that voters vote in the precinct where they are assigned, based on their address,” said Linda Kerns, a Philadelphia-based lawyer. “Arizona law also prohibits ‘ballot harvesting.’ This commonsense law allows a voter’s caregiver, family member or household member, in addition to a postal worker or elections official, to collect an early voting ballot. It protects the voter – and makes sure they are not pressured by someone showing up at their door, or worse, their hospital bed, demanding a ballot.
“The Democratic National Committee sued, saying these provisions essentially adversely impacted people of color and interfered with their right to vote,” Kerns said. “How offensive and patronizing. In a common sense, rational approach, the Supreme Court agreed. Of course, media outlets and Twitter pundits will screech that the Supreme Court allowed ‘voting restrictions’ or impacts ‘voting rights.’ Those race-baiting headlines should be ignored. In Pennsylvania, voters should realize that our only path to secure elections is electing a Republican governor in 2022. If a Democrat follows Wolf, you can be sure that any common sense voting laws will be swiftly vetoed.”
A survey found only 11 percent of Americans believe that ballot harvesting should be legal, while 62 percent believe it should be banned.
“The Supreme Court’s decision in Brnovich today is an enormous win for election integrity and voter confidence,” said Heritage Action Vice President Garrett Bess in a statement. “Heritage Action applauds the Supreme Court for upholding Arizona’s election integrity efforts that make it easier to vote and harder to cheat. State officials across the country should take note and work to enact similar policies in their states.”
Asked whether the legislator could override Wolf’s veto, Grove said the votes are not there. However, many provisions of HR 1300 to make elections go more smoothly were requested by county governments, which run elections. If county officials would tell their Democratic representatives and senators that they want those changes, perhaps an override would be possible, he said.
In the meantime, Republicans will once again ask the voters to approve a constitutional amendment. This one would require voters to show identification at the polls.
The Supreme Court ruling roiled some on the left.
The “ruling underscores the urgency of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act,” said state Sen. Sharif Street, who is the minority chair of the Senate State Government Committee. “The immediate passage of this legislation is now critical to preserving American democracy as nationwide efforts by Republicans to impede the constitutional right to vote persist, even in our commonwealth. For months the Pa. GOP advanced bills, like HB1300, with significant impediments to voting, proposed legislation to require an additional audit of the 2020 election and substantially increased the line item for the Auditor General’s office to continue to cast doubt on the veracity of the 2020 election and beyond.
“I applaud Governor Tom Wolf’s veto of HB1300 and for heeding my initial call for his line-item veto of the more than a $3 million increase to the Auditor General’s Budget,” said Street. “Pennsylvanians are fortunate to have a system of checks and balances that works, but balance is not permanent. The John Lewis Voting Rights Act must become the law of the land to enshrine voter protections for every American to cast their ballot fairly and without barriers.”
The DNC issued this statement: “We’re disappointed in the Court’s ruling today, but we will continue to work to make sure every voter’s vote is counted and protected. This ruling is exactly why we urgently need to take action at the state and federal levels to protect voters from Republicans’ unprecedented efforts to undermine the right to vote.”
And President Joe Biden called the decision “deeply disappointing,” and he said it “upholds what Justice Kagan called ‘a significant race-based disparity in voting opportunities.’”
However, Biden’s own Solicitor General’s office conceded the Arizona law as allowed under the federal Voting Rights Act.
In reaction to the high court’s ruling, Judicial Crisis Network President Carrie Severino tweeted, “Today in Brnovich v. DNC, Justice Alito wrote for a 6-3 Court that Arizona’s out-of-precinct policy and ban on ballot harvesting are consistent with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Section 2’s purpose of eliminating racial discrimination is extremely important, but the Arizona measures are not discriminatory. Both provisions help make it easy to vote and hard to cheat.”