It’s clear that a majority of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals believes Republicans in the Arizona Legislature are racist. A ruling issued Monday that overturns the state’s “ballot harvesting” law says as much.

Attorney General Mark Brnovich has already announced his intent to appeal the ruling, but the boldfaced accusation of racism that the majority of the 11 federal judges signed on to when tossing out the 2016 law should spark reflection among all Arizona voters.

The bill — HB2023 — was sponsored by Scottsdale then-Rep. Michelle Ungenti-Rita and Republicans in the Legislature used their majority to approve it and send it to Gov. Doug Ducey, who signed it into law.

Ugenti-Rita has since been elected to the Senate and recently proposed a bill — then withdrew it — doubling down on HB2023 by requiring anyone who drops off multiple ballots to show ID and attest that the ballots belong to fellow family members.

Outspoken Republicans who supported HB2023 argued the need to prevent voter fraud. Ballot “harvesting” is the practice of gathering multiple ballots and having a single person drop them off at an election office. In Arizona, ballot harvesting is reportedly common among Hispanic and American Indian voters. Postal services in these communities are less reliable and can make it difficult for these voters to return their ballots by mail.

In other parts of the country, collection of ballots is celebrated at church services and other public gatherings by diverse communities. It’s often thought of as a unifying event that assures participation in the voting process.

This newspaper opposed the 2016 law, but not on the basis of racism. We argued that HB2023 addressed a problem that didn’t exist. Voter fraud has become the “bogeyman” for Republicans who consistently argue that minorities, out-of-state residents, and unregistered voters are casting illegal ballots. Past investigation of these claims has rendered little evidence in Arizona and elsewhere that voter fraud exists.

The ballot harvesting law is another example of that unreasonable fear.

A majority of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court didn’t see HB2023 as an instrument to prevent fraud. They pointed to a more troubling reason for the law, accusing Arizona lawmakers — and Republicans specifically — of racism.

That opinion shames all Arizonans and should give us pause to measure the accuracy of the accusation.

It’s time for Arizona voters to look in the mirror.

Reprinted from Sierra Vista Herald/Review

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