In response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Brnovich v. DNC, DNC Chair Jaime Harrison has released the following statement:
“The DNC challenged two Arizona laws in 2016 that were intended to, and did, have a suppressive effect on the votes of minorities. One law resulted in the rejection of the votes of minorities by a ratio of 2:1. The other law effectively ended the ballot collection process that many minority communities in Arizona rely upon, particularly on Native American lands.
“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.
All Americans should have the same opportunity to exercise their right to vote. Every person's vote should be counted and treated in the same manner.Jaime Harrison
Below are some key background points on the Brnovich v. DNC decision:
2016: The case has been five years in the making. In 2016, the DNC, DSCC, Hillary for America, and Arizona Democratic Party joined together with individual Arizona voters to bring suit against Arizona for violations of the Voting Rights Act and the First, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments.
2017: After a full trial in the fall of 2017, a federal district court issued a decision upholding both laws.
2020: The en banc Ninth Circuit reversed in early 2020. In the decision, the en banc court recognized that Arizona has a long history of discrimination against racial minorities, and that both challenged laws disproportionately impacted minority voters in Arizona. It also held that the ballot collection law was passed under “suspicious” circumstances, using racially tinged rhetoric, and that the law is not effective at achieving the state’s purported goal of fraud prevention. It also acknowledged that Arizona is capable of alleviating some of the penalty for voting out-of-precinct by partially counting ballots. Accordingly, the court found that both laws violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and that the ballot collection law was passed with racially discriminatory intent in violation of Section 2 and the Fifteenth Amendment.
2021: On March 2, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments. And today the Court issued its ruling.
The suit focuses on two of Arizona’s laws: (1) the ballot collection law, which criminalized possession of another voter’s ballot; and (2) Arizona’s wholesale rejection of ballots cast in the wrong precinct. Both challenged practices severely burden Arizona voters—particularly Arizona’s minority voters—without sufficient justification. Additionally, the suit alleges that the Arizona legislature passed the ballot collection law with the intent to discriminate.
Plaintiffs asked the court for two remedies: (1) to strike down the ballot collection law, and (2) to require Arizona to partially count ballots cast in the wrong precinct, rather than reject them in their entirety.
A number of positive election law changes have already resulted from the litigation. Arizona counties have taken affirmative steps to reduce the number of out-of-precinct voters through the use of vote centers, better poll worker training, and polling place signage.
With respect to ballot collection, the suit has highlighted issues with access to reliable mail services, particularly in rural tribal areas of the state. In response, many counties have increased the number of ballot dropboxes available to voters who used to rely on ballot collection. Other counties have reduced the instances of late-arriving ballots—one problem that ballot collection was addressing before it was banned—by sending election officials to post offices to directly collect ballots that were placed in the mail stream before the Election Day deadline.