In a setback for Democrats, the Supreme Court agreed Oct. 2 to hear a challenge by Arizona and state Republicans to Democratic Party efforts to relax electoral integrity measures and throw open the state to ballot harvesting and out-of-precinct voting.
But oral arguments in the case have not yet been scheduled, and it doesn’t appear it will be heard before the presidential election on Nov. 3.
According to the state’s attorney general, the ruling that struck down the laws in question was stayed, pending an appeal. This means Arizona’s current ban on ballot harvesting, a controversial practice denounced by Republicans, will remain in place for the time being.
“We are pleased the Supreme Court will hear our case regarding Arizona’s restrictions on ballot harvesting and out-of-precinct voting,” Mark Brnovich, the state’s Republican attorney general, said in a statement.
“There is no higher priority for public officials than to maintain the integrity of elections. As we contend with a politically-polarized climate and battle a global pandemic, we must sustain the cornerstone of our government and ensure the will of the electorate is heard.”
Arizona is an important battleground state. President Donald Trump, a Republican, won the state with 48.7 percent of the popular vote in 2016, besting Democrat Hillary Clinton, who secured 45.1 percent. In that election, Libertarian Gary Johnson won 4.1 percent in Arizona, and Jill Stein of the Green Party won 1.3 percent.
Arizona holds 11 of the 270 electoral votes needed to elect the president.
The case is actually two cases that the court consolidated. The first is Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee (DNC). The second is Arizona Republican Party v. DNC.
“Prohibiting unlimited third-party ballot harvesting is a commonsense means of protecting the secret ballot and preventing undue influence, voter fraud, ballot tampering, and voter intimidation,” Brnovich wrote in court documents.
The DNC has strategically filed a flurry of lawsuits in battleground states in the hope of changing state voting rules in time for the elections in November.
Arizona, like other states, has adopted rules to promote the order and integrity of its elections.
One provision is an “out-of-precinct policy,” which doesn’t count provisional ballots cast in person on Election Day outside of the voter’s designated precinct. Another is a “ballot-collection law,” known as H.B. 2023, that permits only specific persons such as family and household members, caregivers, mail carriers, and election officials to handle another person’s completed early ballot.
Most states require voters to vote in their own precincts, and about 20 states limit ballot collection, according to court documents.
A U.S. district court upheld Arizona’s provisions, which were challenged under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. A panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court but then at the en banc stage reversed, going against the recommendations of the federal government.
The provisions regarding ballot harvesting and out-of-precinct voting were ruled racially discriminatory and therefore unconstitutional by the appeals court.
Marc Elias, of the high-powered Democratic law firm Perkins Coie, is listed as counsel of record for the DNC in the Supreme Court docket. Elias has a long history of successfully challenging electoral integrity programs in court. His online biography cites three of his cases in which courts struck down voter ID laws in Missouri, Iowa, and North Carolina.
Elias didn’t immediately respond to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.
He is also a major figure in the “Russiagate” conspiracy, which aimed to overturn the result of the previous presidential election. A lawyer who represented the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s campaign in the 2016 election cycle, Elias hired Fusion GPS in April 2016 to conduct opposition research against then-candidate Trump, The Washington Post previously reported.
That research effort culminated in the salacious, discredited 35-page dossier written by former British spy Christopher Steele that purported to tie Trump to the Russian government.
The Supreme Court’s new annual term opens Oct. 5 with oral arguments in two cases.