The American Republic scored a big victory on Thursday, July 1st. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned an apparent unconstitutional ruling by the San Francisco-based Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that had struck down HB 2023, Arizona’s new voter integrity law. The vote was decided by a clear majority of 6 to 3, split along ideological lines. The Court’s rendition in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee settled two paramount issues challenging America’s popular sovereignty republican system.
The most pressing threats to the United States election model were strengthening structural mechanisms that could make voting as easy and accessible as possible while making it difficult and complicated to cheat. The second fundamental pillar that was eroded and needed fixing, as was made evident by the irregularities in the 2020 election, was the constitutional perversion of allowing state executive officers and courts to replace state legislatures as the exclusive architects of electoral laws and their systems. Both principles were defended with the ruling.
The Democratic National Committee (DNC), the governing body of the Democratic Party, sued the state of Arizona (Mark Brnovich is the Attorney General of Arizona) claiming that its new electoral law violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA), by discriminating against minorities. Justice Samuel Alito, who penned the majority opinion, was pristine in his indictment of the Democratic Party’s ridiculous arguments. “Under our form of government”, Alito wrote, “legislators have a duty to exercise their judgment and to represent their constituents. It is insulting to suggest that they are mere dupes or tools.” Undoubtedly, the primacy of the state legislatures in crafting election laws as mandated by the Constitution, was forcefully conveyed.
Noting that the DNC legal rationale during the hearings was in some ways to appropriate the VRA, Alito shrewdly made the brilliant point that, “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…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 SCOTUS majority was composed of, in addition to the Court’s opinion writer, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett. The dissenting opinion was written by Justice Elena Kagan, which was most critical of the majority. “What is tragic is that the Court has damaged”, stated Kagan, “a statute designed to bring about the end of discrimination in voting.” Alito appeared to directly attack these unsubstantiated charges when he scribed, “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”.
Besides defending the Founding Father’s intent of extending exclusivity to the state legislatures in crafting election laws and not the other courts, governors, or state secretaries, HB 2023 restricted the much frowned upon practice of “ballot harvesting” and the acceptance of provisional ballots outside of the voter’s precinct. The idea of limiting who can ballot harvest, in other words, who can gather and submit completed absentee and/or mail-in voter ballots on behalf of a voter to family members, caretakers, postal workers, and election officials, did not seem to be, in the opinion of most of the SCOTUS, to be overly burdensome, racially discriminatory (as the DNC argued), or breaching the VRA.
The SCOTUS was right in its decision. Most functional industrialized democracies in the world severely limit mail-in voting, much more so ballot harvesting, because of its conduciveness to fraud. Hopefully, the abnormalities of a pandemic-altered election system that proved rife for anomalies, will not be repeated in the United States again. The Arizona voter integrity law upheld by the SCOTUS is a most comforting step forward.