Court Battles

Court rejects Republican push to end early voting in Arizona

Associated Press/Ross D. Franklin
A voter places a ballot in an election voting drop box in Mesa, Ariz., Friday, Oct. 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

An Arizona appeals court this week denied a GOP push to declare the state’s mail-in voting system in violation of the Arizona Constitution.

A three-judge panel affirmed a lower court’s ruling that mail-in voting does not violate the state constitution’s requirement to keep voters’ ballots secret, rejecting the arguments of the Arizona Republican Party.

“Arizona’s mail-in voting statutes ensure that voters fill out their ballot in a manner that does not disclose their vote and that voters’ choices are not later revealed,” the court ruled. “The superior court did not err in finding that these protections are sufficient to preserve secrecy in voting.”

Early voting has become commonplace in Arizona after state lawmakers in 1991 allowed voters to request early ballots for any reason. About 8 in 10 voters did so in the 2022 midterms, including those who mailed their ballot or delivered it to a dropbox.

But Arizona Republicans have increasingly attacked such methods, with the Grand Canyon State becoming an epicenter for voter fraud allegations promoted by allies of former President Trump following the 2020 presidential election.

The state GOP and Kelli Ward, the group’s chairwoman, began the legal push to block mail-in voting last year, prior to the midterms.

The party initially filed their case directly to the Arizona Supreme Court, but the court ruled in April that the lawsuit did not meet the criteria for being filed there and indicated it could instead be filed in a state trial court.

The trial court in June rejected a Democratic coalition’s arguments that the Arizona GOP did not have standing, meaning the capacity to file the suit, and that they were too late in filing their claims, but the judge ultimately denied the GOP’s arguments on the merits.

The Arizona GOP argued mail-in voting laws violate the state constitution’s Secrecy Clause because the laws do not create a restricted zone around a voter filling out a mail-in ballot. That clause stipulates that “secrecy in voting shall be preserved,”

But the appeals court panel noted that voters provide identifiable information only on the envelope containing their ballot, and the procedures are set up so that no election official is able to lawfully connect the choices on a ballot to the voter’s information on the accompanying envelope.

“These protections are adequate to ensure the preservation of secrecy in voting,” the appeals court ruled. “The legislature is free to adopt the more stringent requirements urged by Plaintiffs, but it is not constitutionally required to do so.”

The Hill has reached out to the Arizona GOP for comment.

Tags 2022 midterms Arizona Arizona GOP Donald Trump Kelli Ward Kelli Ward mail-in voting

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