Navajo Nation members file lawsuit seeking to ease Arizona's vote-by-mail deadline

Navajo Nation members file lawsuit seeking to ease Arizona's vote-by-mail deadline
© getty: A member of the Navajo Nation receives his monthly water delivery Thoreau, New Mexico

Navajo Nation tribe members filed a lawsuit Wednesday seeking to ease Arizona's deadline for mail-in ballots in the November election, citing the postal service slowdown that's heavily affecting reservation residents.

The six Navajo members sued Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) in federal court in Arizona over the state's requirement that mail-in ballots be received by 7 p.m. on Election Day, saying it gives those on the reservation less time to vote than residents in the state's major cities and suburbs.

The lawsuit says that tribal members face more hurdles when it comes to voting by mail and will suffer irreparable harm "unless Defendants’ count [vote-by-mail] ballots from Tribal Members postmarked on or before Election Day in the 2020 general election is declared unlawful and enjoined by this Court."

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The lawsuit said it had requested earlier this month that the secretary of state accept ballots that were postmarked by Nov. 3.

Hobbs's office did not immediately respond when asked for comment.

The tribe members allege that Arizona's deadline violates the Voting Rights Act, the Arizona Constitution and tribal members' constitutional rights to equal protection under the 14th Amendment.

"Voting by mail systems rest upon the premise that all citizens have equal mail service, however, hundreds of thousands of rural Americans have non-standard mail service burdened with a range of service limits including irregular service or unreliable service, no residential delivery, excessive distances to post offices or other postal providers with limited hours of operation among other issues," the Navajo Nation members wrote in its complaint.

The lawsuit says that the reservation's high poverty rates, geographical isolation, lack of post offices and other factors make it significantly harder for its residents to vote by mail.

The Trump administration's slowdown of the Postal Service has raised concerns about its ability to handle an expected increase in mail-in ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic and prompted a surge in partisan litigation over state voting restrictions.

The Supreme Court's conservative majority has mostly sided with the states imposing those restrictions in recent months. Critics say that the restrictions make it harder for voters to send ballots by mail and make them more vulnerable to the coronavirus.