Arizona GOP urges judge to end early voting; judge must rule on Monday | Arizona and Area News
Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services
PHOENIX — Whether millions of Arizonans will lose the right to vote early could hinge on whether a judge finds the practice violates anyone’s right to a secret ballot.
In a hearing on Friday, Arizona Republican Party lawyer Alexander Kolodin argued that letting people vote from home means others can see who they support.
This violates constitutional requirements that “the secrecy of the vote must be preserved”, he argued. He said door-to-door voting opens the door to pressure on people to vote a certain way or even sell their votes.
Attorney Daniel Arellano, who represents the Arizona Democratic Party, did not dispute that people who vote at home are free to share their choices with others, although it was pointed out that the Voter intimidation and vote selling are already illegal.
But Arellano said there was a big flaw in Republicans’ attempt to use the privacy issue against the state’s 1991 law allowing early voting without an excuse.
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“What they would have to allege and show is that early voting in each case would be unconstitutional because it would be impossible to vote early in private,” Arellano said.
“That’s just not the case,” he said. “People routinely vote early ballot privately all the time.”
A lawyer for Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, meanwhile, pointed out that the state’s GOP does not claim that the fact that some people can vote early prevents its own members from voting privately. In fact, state GOP chairwoman Kelli Ward, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, voted early in the 2020 election.
What’s happening here is the reverse of voting rights protection, said Hobbs’ attorney Roopali Desai. “Their demand is to make it harder to vote, to limit voting, to make it less people have the opportunity to vote,” she said.
Arellano told the judge, “‘No one is required to vote early,’ because Arizona is not one of those states where all ballots have to be mailed in. People remain free to go to the polls for whatever reason they want.
That now leaves the question whether Arizonans who like to vote early — they were nearly 3 million in the 2020 general election, about 88% of those who voted — will have that ability come November.
The judge, Mohave County Superior Court Judge Lee Jantzen, promised a decision on Monday.
Arizona has allowed some form of early voting for more than a century, encompassing everyone from the military and those not in the county on Election Day to people who are infirm or at least 65 years old. .
Republicans do not challenge these laws. Instead, what the party wants to repeal are laws in place since 1991 that allow anyone to request an early vote.
Reversing the law would do more than hurt the vast majority of Arizonans who like to vote by mail. There are also potential policy implications.
In the 2020 presidential race in Arizona, Republican Donald Trump edged out Democrat Joe Biden by nearly 124,000 votes among those who turned out to vote. But Biden won nearly 139,000 more votes among early voters than Trump.
During Friday’s arguments, Kolodin did not address the practice’s popularity or how it might affect future voter turnout. He urged the judge to focus on what could go wrong.
“The fundamental thing about mail-in voting is that it’s virtually impossible to catch bad actors,” he said.
Kolodin cited an example for Jantzen, the criminal charges brought against Guillermina Fuentes, a former mayor of San Luis, who agreed last week to plead guilty to gathering and, in some cases, filling out the ballots of others during the August 2020 primary election.
But Arellano noted during the hearing that the GOP’s legal attempt to kill virtually all early votes contains no real allegations of fraud in practice.
Attorney Karen Hartman-Tellez, who represents 13 of the state’s 15 counties, told Jantzen that before deciding whether or not to kill early voting, he needs to consider the effects it would have, especially if his order was to apply to this year’s general election.
She said counties spend a year or more finding polling places. If early voting isn’t an option, Hartman-Tellez said, that means scrambling to find not only many more sites that must meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements — she thinks the need would be multiplied by six – but also finding more poll workers and election materials.
“Election officials are fantastic problem solvers,” she said. “But they are not magicians. They cannot create polling stations or electoral agents out of nothing.
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