Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams is praising the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Arizona’s ban on ballot harvesting.

Secretary of State Michael Adams

Secretary of State Michael Adams

In a 6-3 ruling on Thursday, the high court upheld voting limits in Arizona that a lower court had found discriminatory under the federal Voting Rights Act. It was the high court's second major decision in eight years that civil rights groups and liberal dissenting justices say weakened the Civil Rights-era law that was intended to eradicate discrimination in voting.

In an opinion by Justice Samuel Alito, the court reversed an appellate ruling in deciding that Arizona's regulations on who can return early ballots for another person and on refusing to count ballots cast in the wrong precinct are not racially discriminatory.

The federal appeals court in San Francisco had held that the measures disproportionately affected Black, Hispanic and Native American voters in violation of a part of the Voting Rights Act known as Section 2.

“I’m grateful to the U.S. Supreme Court for upholding Arizona’s ban on ballot harvesting,” said Adams, “a pernicious practice that contributes to duress, intimidation and outright fraud in elections. Arizona’s law was our model in drafting our own law this year to ban ballot harvesting in Kentucky, and today’s decision will protect free and fair elections in the commonwealth.”

Ballot harvesting laws prohibit third parties from going door-to-door to collect ballots. Last year, Adams joined a group of secretaries of state in filing an amicus brief in the case.

Adams also noted that the danger of ballot harvesting is not speculative, nor foreign to Kentucky. In 2014, the former mayor of Martin, Kentucky, Ruth Thomasine Robinson, was sent to federal prison for seven-and-a-half years after being convicted of election-related offenses. Her husband, James Robinson, received a three-year sentence for vote-buying.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Kentucky, trial testimony established that the conspirators completed absentee ballots, marking their choice of candidates, and instructing the voters to sign the pre-marked ballots. Voters who complied by voting for Thomasine Robinson in her 2012 re-election campaign received promises of better living arrangements and other considerations. Voters who did not comply faced eviction or the loss of priority for public housing. In addition, the evidence established that the defendants offered to pay several voters to vote for Thomasine Robinson.

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