Published July 2, 2021
Thursday’s Supreme Court decisions on Arizona voting procedures and a California law mandating that nonprofits disclose their donors have predictably been castigated by the left. In fact, the court — voting 6 to 3, with its conservative and liberal wings on opposite sides — did exactly what was necessary to uphold democratic values.
Democracy needs more than simple voting laws to work. People need to be able to freely assemble on behalf of political goals. They need to be free from intimidation before, during and after a political campaign. And they need to be assured that the vote reflects the true judgment of the people. Without these elements, no democracy worthy of its name can endure. Each of the court’s decisions Thursday defended one of these core democratic elements.
The right to assemble was at issue in Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta. California had passed a law requiring that all nonprofits disclose their donors to the state attorney general’s office, ostensibly to facilitate the office’s ability to investigate fraud and other misconduct by the organizations. The court struck down that law as contrary to the First Amendment’s guarantee of free assembly, noting that “compelled disclosure of affiliation with groups engaged in advocacy may constitute [an] effective . . . restraint on freedom of association.”
Henry Olsen is a Washington Post columnist and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.