Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Knox v. Brnovich (9th Cir. - Oct. 31, 2018)

Like a lot of states, Arizona allows early voting.  By mail and otherwise.  But also like a lot of states, you've got to personally mail (or otherwise return) your ballot yourself.  Other than a few specified exceptions (giving the ballot to family members, etc.), you're not allowed to give your ballot to someone else.  Even to mail the thing for you.

Today the Ninth Circuit decides that these restrictions are valid.  They're not preempted by federal laws that govern the Postal Service.  And they're not invalid under the First Amendment.  They're instead just fine, and survive.

You can see why we might not want others to possess your ballot.  Because we're principally worried that they might vote for you -- that you might just give 'em your ballot and have 'em vote it.  That's in part why we want to make sure you do these things personally.

Mind you, that concern only goes so far.  It's a good reason why someone else shouldn't possess your unvoted ballot.  And also why someone else shouldn't be able to change your voted ballot once you give it to 'em.

But, for me, there aren't especially powerful reasons why you can't give you voted ballot to someone else and have 'em mail it (or drop it off) for you.  It's still your vote.  It's still your ballot.  If someone is willing to save you a trip to the polling booth and drop off (or mail) your ballot for you, I don't see a good reason why they shouldn't be able to do it.  Or at least no good reason sufficient to outweigh our desire to help everyone vote and make the thing easy.

But if a state disagrees, today's opinion holds that the Constitution (and federal postal laws) are no bar.  The net effect might be -- and undoubtedly is -- to suppress a certain degree of voting, and to make the process harder than it otherwise would (and probably should) be.  But that's up to states.  Some can make it easy, some can make it hard -- as long as it's not too hard.  This doesn't fall into that latter category, nor does it infringe upon "free speech," so it's constitutional.

Parenthetically, I was in Arizona last weekend, and I gotta say I'm generally impressed with Arizona's efforts to get out the vote.  There are not only a ton of campaign signs -- much more than here in San Diego, at least -- but I also heard and saw tons of billboards, radio advertisements, and other efforts of a nonpartisan nature to encourage people to vote.  Great to see.  Particularly given that not all states see it the same way, and deliberately make it harder to vote as a means of ensuring a particular outcome (since the demographics of who doesn't vote when it's difficult to do so are quite known to the various participants in the state legislative process).

But if Arizona wants to make sure that people mail their ballots themselves, that's up to Arizona.  So holds the Ninth Circuit.