Arizona Cites High Court Win to Back Another Voting Restriction

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Arizona urged a federal appeals court to reverse a 2020 ruling that forces the state to give voters who forget to sign envelopes for their mail-in ballots as long as five days after Election Day to sign them.

At a hearing Wednesday before a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco, a lawyer for the Republican National Committee, which intervened in the case to support the state, cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent upholding of two other restrictive Arizona election laws to argue the state is on the right track in its effort to handle voting fairly.

“Just last week, the Supreme court observed that Arizona law makes it very easy to vote, and also reaffirmed the state’s longstanding authority to enact regulations to proactively prevent the risk of voter fraud,” RNC lawyer Daniel Shapiro said, adding that the disputed law is “minimally burdensome.”

The hearing is the latest election-related dispute between the national parties, as Republican-led states continue their effort to restrict voting in the name of ballot security. The GOP also continues to push former President Donald Trump’s false claim that the election was stolen, to justify new voting laws.

At issue is the difference in the “cure” deadline for ballot envelopes that are missing signatures as opposed to envelopes with signatures that don’t match the ones on file. Arizona voters whose signatures are mismatched were already given five days after Election Day to resolve the problem, while voters with missing signatures only had until 7 p.m. on Election Day.

The state and national GOP seek to reverse a September ruling by U.S. District Judge Douglas Rayes in Phoenix, who agreed with Democrats that voters with missing signatures should be given the same opportunity to sign their ballots as people whose signatures are mismatched.

Elisabeth C. Frost, a lawyer for the Arizona Democratic Party and the Democratic National Committee, argued at the hearing that there is no legitimate reason to treat the two types of ballots differently, and that the state was seeking to “toss fully completed ballots by lawful voters.”

Circuit Judge Susan Graber disputed that point.

“Counsel, they’re not fully complete -- that’s the problem,” said Graber, a Bill Clinton appointee. “If they were fully completed we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

The three-judge panel peppered both sides of the dispute with questions and didn’t hint at which way it was leaning. The other two judges, A. Wallace Tashima and Kathryn Vratil, were appointed by Clinton and George W. Bush, respectively.

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