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Arizona 'Ballot Harvesting' Ban Revived by US Supreme Court

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Saturday, 05 Nov 2016 12:11 PM

The U.S. Supreme Court reinstated a Republican-backed Arizona law that makes it a crime to collect early ballots from voters and bring them to a polling place -- one of the most popular and effective methods for Hispanics and Native Americans to vote in a state where polls have shown a close race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Acting three days before the presidential election, the justices granted a joint request from state officials and the Arizona Republican Party, intervening after a federal appeals court voted 6-5 on Friday to block enforcement of the law. The Supreme Court on Saturday set aside that decision in a two-sentence order without explanation or public dissent.

That appeals ruling had been handed down as election officials in North Carolina, a critical swing state, were ordered by a federal judge to restore thousands of voter registrations that were canceled and a judge in another bellwether state, Ohio, barred Republican nominee Trump and one of his advisers from engaging in Election Day voter intimidation.

Similar lawsuits against Trump and Roger Stone of the group Stop the Steal have been filed in Nevada, Arizona, Michigan and Pennsylvania as Republicans and Democrats alike zero in on getting more of their voters to the polls by Tuesday in Trump’s tightening race with Clinton. Federal judges in Arizona and Nevada on Friday denied requests to issue orders similar to the one in Ohio.

Voting Fraud

Republicans in several GOP-led states who suspect voter fraud have sought to purge voter rolls, require photo identification and limit early voting. Democrats have gone to court to block such efforts, arguing voter-fraud fears are unfounded and the restrictions are really intended to discourage minority and poor voters from casting ballots.

In the Arizona ballot-harvesting case, the San Francisco-based appeals court said the measure would violate the Constitution and the U.S. Voting Rights Act, with the majority rejecting the state’s contention that the law would help combat fraud. The law makes it a crime for people who aren’t household members or caregivers to collect legitimate ballots from voters and deliver them to a voting center.

The practice had become popular in Arizona among people who lack reliable mail service or have to use public transportation to vote in person. Democrats contended the law unfairly singles out minority voters who have relied on this arrangement in early voting.

‘Ground Zero’

U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on Friday issued an emergency injunction forcing the boards of elections in several counties to restore voters whose names were removed improperly from the rolls. Biggs ruled it was illegal for the election boards to remove anyone’s address within 90 days of the election.

“North Carolina is ground zero for voter suppression,” said Penda Hair, an attorney for Forward Justice. “It’s also ground zero for the fight back.”

Forward Justice, the North Carolina NAACP and other groups bringing the lawsuit argued the process used for purging the rolls -- concluding a person should be removed if a mailing to their address was returned to the sender -- was illegal. One voter had moved into a nursing home in the same county and the mailing was sent to his old address; another card was sent to a wrong address; another was to a woman who had been evacuated from her home during a hurricane. The ruling involves at least 3,500 voters.

“What they are doing is race-driven, immoral and unconstitutional,” William Barber, a reverend and president of the state’s NAACP, told reporters. “We haven’t seen this kind of voter suppression since the days of Jim Crow.”

Susan Adams, chairman of the Moore County Board of Elections, which was named in the suit, said in a Nov. 1 request to dismiss the case that the NAACP had failed to show that it had standing to sue. She also said the NAACP had failed to prove the existence of an actual controversy.

‘Working Quickly’

Kim Westbrook Strach, the executive director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections, said in an e-mailed statement after the ruling: “Our agency is working quickly to establish the procedures necessary to comply with the court order between now and Election Day.”

Grace Hardison, a 100-year-old North Carolinian whose registration was challenged and is a plaintiff in the case, is a fighter, said her nephew, Greg Sattherwaite.

"She wants to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else, and she’s passionate about voting," Sattherwaite said.

In federal court in Newark, New Jersey, a judge heard arguments Friday in the Democratic National Committee’s request to hold its Republican counterpart in contempt of a court order barring the party from engaging in voter intimidation under the guise of poll watching. The Republican National Committee denies any wrongdoing, while the DNC claims Republicans are coordinating with Trump’s campaign to intimidate voters at the polls.

Nevada Ruling

In Nevada, a federal judge rejected Democrats’ request for an order barring Trump’s campaign, Stone and the Republican Party from intimidating voters at the polls. The judge said, despite a few individuals engaging in such behavior, there was no evidence of widespread efforts to threaten voters. The judge ordered both sides to return to court Monday to discuss training for people who will be conducting exit polling.

A federal judge in Phoenix denied a similar request by the Democratic Party, saying it hadn’t shown it was likely to succeed in showing statements and actions by Republicans amounted to threats or coercion.

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The U.S. Supreme Court reinstated a Republican-backed Arizona law that makes it a crime to collect early ballots from voters and bring them to a polling place -- one of the most popular and effective methods for Hispanics and Native Americans to vote...
US, Campaign, 2016, Ballot, Collection
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2016-11-05
Saturday, 05 Nov 2016 12:11 PM
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