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Early voter law changed before SCOTUS ruling

Voter Proudly Displays Evidence that He Voted on Election Day in the United States.

A new ruling upholding Arizona election laws comes as state lawmakers just changed one of the reasons the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to leave those statutes in place. 

In concluding the ban on ballot harvesting does not violate the Voting Rights Act, the court cited how easy it is for Arizonans to cast early ballots, Justice Samuel Alito pointed out that, among other things, “any voters may ask to be sent an early ballot automatically in future elections.” That was true at the time the case was argued at the court in March. 

But that was before the Republican-controlled Legislature adopted SB1485. 

That law says that if someone does not return an early ballot in at least one of four prior elections the person is dropped from what until now had been called the “permanent early voting list.” 

They still could sign up again to get early ballots. They also would have to be notified before being removed from the list. 

And they could still go directly to the polls on Election Day. 

But it would entail an additional hurdle. 

More to the point, foes argued this would have a disparate negative impact on minority voters who may be less inclined to vote in every election but still want the option of getting that ballot for the years they are interested in casting an early ballot. That proved particularly true in 2020 with not just record turnout but also nearly 90% of the votes cast by early ballots. 

All that raises two questions. 

The first is whether the Supreme Court might have reached a different conclusion on the legality of the 2016 law against “ballot harvesting” had the justices known of the subsequent action of Arizona lawmakers. That, for the moment, remains an academic question. 

Second is whether this new law fits within the guidelines laid out in the Supreme Court’s July 1 ruling about what changes states can and cannot enact without running afoul of the federal Voting Rights Act. 

During debate on SB1485, proponents argued that having un-voted early ballots leads to the possibility that someone else could get hold of them and cast a fraudulent vote. Sen. Vince Leach, R-Tucson, said that in Pima County alone there were about 70,000 early ballots mailed out last election that were not returned. 

But Sen. Kirsten Engel, D-Tucson, said there is no documented evidence of fraud due to early voting. 

That may be irrelevant. In their July 1 ruling, the justices said a state need not have evidence of fraud before enacting restrictions designed to protect election integrity. 

There is, however, still the question of whether the law will have a disparate impact on people of color. 

That was the argument of Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale. He said that leads him to believe that the measure was enacted due to “systemic racism.” 

Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who defended the ballot harvesting law at the Supreme Court, said he believes SB1485 is defensible. 

“In and of itself, cleaning up early voting lists is not something that’s going to trigger the Voting Rights Act per se,” he told Capitol Media Services. 



  1. Stephen Etrinoch

    Additional hurdle? If you’re not capable of voting in one of four straight elections, updating your voting registration, and you ignore notice of your removal from the roles, then maybe you shouldn’t be deciding the future of other people through your vote. It’s a shame there’s not an IQ test or current events quiz prior to voting. Don’t know about a candidate other than a letter behind their name? Don’t vote! Don’t know about an issue? Don’t vote! Idiocracy was supposed to be a comedy, not a template.

  2. The last time I looked into it the Constitution says voting is a “right”, not a privilege. And whether you like it or not, all American Citizens have that as a birthright. And whether you like it or not, “naturalized” Citizens have that same right.
    Because it is a “right” whether I vote in all elections, just some or none, the government cannot infringe on my voting “rights.” This is exactly what the GOP is doing now.

    As for the Republican fantasy that our elections are frauds – unless their candidate wins it seems – one could make a similar claim about the Arizona Legislature. I can’t prove “fraud” in their voting yes or no on any given bill, but using their approach to voting as a model, we ought to “audit” their votes to ensure there was no fraud.

    Because, as they have said about the 2020 election, an audit is necessary because “many people have lost faith in the system.”

  3. Merrill Eisenberg

    The reporting is erroneous! You wll be removed from the Early Ballot List is you don’t vote in ALL elections over 2 elections cycles. From the engrossed version of the bill: “After a voter has requested to be included on the permanent ACTIVE early voting list, the voter shall be sent an early ballot by mail automatically for any election at which a voter at that residence address is eligible to vote until any of the following occurs:…4. THE VOTER FAILS TO VOTE AN EARLY BALLOT IN ALL ELECTIONS FOR TWO CONSECUTIVE ELECTION CYCLES. FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS PARAGRAPH, “ELECTION” MEANS ANY REGULAR PRIMARY OR REGULAR GENERAL ELECTION FOR WHICH THERE WAS A FEDERAL RACE ON THE BALLOT OR FOR WHICH A CITY OR TOWN CANDIDATE PRIMARY OR FIRST ELECTION OR CITY OR TOWN CANDIDATE SECOND, GENERAL OR RUNOFF ELECTION WAS ON THE BALLOT. THIS PARAGRAPH DOES NOT APPLY TO:

  4. Barbara Tellman

    Please read the law carefully. It very clearly states that if you do not vote in ALL four elections using your early ballot, you will lose early voting status. Few people vote in all primaries, especially independent voters. And if you lose your early ballot and vote one election at a polling place instead, you lose your status. This will hit voters of all parties and non-parties hard and make a lot of extra work for recorders.

    If they intended it to apply to only one vote, they should have said “at least one ..”

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