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Arizona Attorney General On Supreme Court Upholding State Voting Restrictions


In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled today in favor of voting laws in the state of Arizona. Writing for the majority in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, Justice Samuel Alito said that just because voting may be, quote, "inconvenient for some," that does not mean access to voting is unequal. Both President Biden and Justice Elena Kagan said the ruling undoes the work of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Joining us now is the Republican state attorney general of Arizona, Mark Brnovich. Welcome.

MARK BRNOVICH: Thank you, Ailsa, for having me on.

CHANG: So the Supreme Court agrees with you that these two laws in Arizona, one that bans ballots that are collected and delivered to polling places by anyone other than caretakers or relatives, and the other requiring ballots cast at wrong precincts to be thrown out, the court says that those two laws can remain on the books. And the court acknowledges concerns about voting fraud. So let me ask you, how serious of an issue is voting fraud in Arizona at the moment?

BRNOVICH: I think that, regardless of who we are, what our political affiliation is, is that everyone wants to ensure that every eligible voter can vote. But we also want to make sure that we maintain integrity in the process and confidence in the results. And no less than former President Jimmy Carter and his bipartisan Election Commission report in 2005 said that absentee ballots remain one of the largest sources of potential fraud in 2012. The New York Times wrote editorials about how they were worried that Republicans were going to use mail-in voting to undermine the electoral process. So these were arguments that we briefed, that even came up during the argument and even the other side tried to point to. And obviously, the Supreme Court accepted our test and our reasoning and rejected the Democratic National Committee's attempt to micromanage state elections.

CHANG: But how many documented cases of fraud have there been in your time in office?

BRNOVICH: Well, once again, I think that there's a larger point as to Article 1 of the Constitution that provides that when the states set time, place and manner of elections, does that allow states to enact election integrity measures? And the answer is obviously yes.

CHANG: Well, one of the key concerns for Democrats was that there are huge rural parts of Arizona where ballots need to be collected because of lack of access to polling places or even post offices. So what is your office doing to make sure that those voters can be reached?

BRNOVICH: Well, I think it's interesting that the far left is talking about nationalizing and micromanaging elections when you look at states like Arizona, where we have a whole plethora of options for people to vote. So, for example, we have no excuse absentee balloting. Are you asking the attorney general of New York or Connecticut or Massachusetts or New Hampshire, all these other other states don't allow that? Instead, you have to go to the state and have a bureaucrat decide whether you get an absentee ballot or not. So we have that option. We have drive-through voting. We have ballot box locations, drop sites.

CHANG: We should note, though, we should note that voters who rely on ballot collectors in Arizona have tended to be poor or older or homebound or disabled. These are voters who tend more to be voters of color. Justice Alito wrote in his majority opinion that just because voting is, quote, "inconvenient to some," it doesn't mean access to voting is unequal. So how do you, as attorney general of the state of Arizona, how do you personally view the difference between what's inconvenient and what is actually unequal when it comes to Arizona voters?

BRNOVICH: Well, it's not just about Arizona. It's about, what does the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act require? And as we maintain, in fact, literally the first sentence when I did the oral argument and I said to the court that public servants have no more sacred duty than protecting the people's right to vote, but we have to maintain confidence in the results and in the process. And at the end of the day, historically in the United States, we have resolved our differences in two ways. One is by using our First Amendment rights, by talking, by arguing, by discussing. And I worry now that as people become more and more intimidated and the left becomes more and more active on things that we're losing that ability to disagree without being disagreeable. And the second thing is by making sure that people can exercise the franchise and they have confidence in the results.

CHANG: You speak of confidence in the results. What do you say to the Trump campaign that insists there was fraud in Arizona voting and that keeps recounting the Maricopa County votes?

BRNOVICH: At the end of the day, people want to have confidence in the results. And my job as the attorney general is to deal in facts and evidence. And what I've said, for example, on the audit is the Senate - I believe very strongly in separation of powers - our Senate has the right to conduct an audit. I'm not going to micromanage it, but I've said that I will wait to see what the results are of that audit before I comment any further on it.

CHANG: Arizona State Attorney General Mark Brnovich, thank you very much for your time today.

BRNOVICH: Thank you, Ailsa. Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.
Justine Kenin