The U.S. Supreme Court delivered a high, hard knockdown pitch Thursday to Major League Baseball’s most visible recent foray into politics, its move of the All Star Game..
The Court, by a 6-3 margin, ruled that Arizona’s recently passed limitations on how votes could be cast was constitutional. The Court upheld that state Legislature’s passage of a law making a practice known as ballot harvesting illegal, and also requiring local election officials to throw out ballots cast at the wrong location.
MLB gets brushback on rationale for moving All Star Game
Although the Arizona law is not identical to one passed recently in Georgia that caused MLB to relocate the upcoming All Star Game from Atlanta to Denver, the similarities are close enough that veteran Court watchers said Thursday’s action makes it unlikely that the Court will look differently on challenges to the constitutionality of the Georgia law.
MLB pulled the All Star Game this spring following passage of the Georgia law, which civil rights advocates decried as discriminatory. The same claims were made against the Arizona law, protesters asserting a “disproportionate impact” on minority voters.
When he announced the move of the game in April, commissioner Rob Manfred said, “Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box.”
In his majority decision, Justice Samuel Alito tossed that argument out of the game. “Where a state provides multiple ways to vote,” he wrote, “any burden imposed on voters who choose one of the available options cannot be evaluated without also taking into account the other available means.”
While the ruling does not directly uphold the Georgia law that MLB found objectionable in deciding to relocate the All Star Game, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was among entities predicting that result is now all but inevitable.
The newspaper quoted Georgia State University law professor Anthony Michael Kreis as saying the Arizona ruling will likely make it difficult for the courts to side with groups that have filed challenges to Georgia’s law, which has similar out-of-precinct language among other new provisions regarding absentee, early in-person and election-day voting.
“The bar has been raised very high to make it nearly impossible for a plaintiff to bring disparate impact claims” to the courts, Kreis told the newspaper.
In other words, the Court found, MLB’s decision to bow to political pressure to move the All Star Game shows that the sport knows a lot more about hitting, pitching, and fielding than it does about constitutional law.