The Show on KJZZ

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge: Video Voting OK If Necessary Due To Disability

By Steve Goldstein, Lauren Gilger
Associated Press
Published: Tuesday, October 6, 2020 - 9:00am
Updated: Tuesday, March 16, 2021 - 12:57pm
Audio icon Download mp3 (8.17 MB)

Arizona election officials can allow voters to cast ballots through video conferencing if necessary to accommodate a disability, a judge ruled Monday.

Citing the COVID-19 pandemic, Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes had sought a court order explicitly allowing “special election boards” to use video to assist voters in a hospital or long-term care facility who don't have a trusted relative or caregiver to help. Gov. Doug Ducey and Attorney General Mark Brnovich, both Republicans, said that was illegal because special election boards must meet with the voter in person.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Randall Warner agreed that state law requires an in-person meeting. But he said that's trumped by a federal law requiring that voters with disabilities are accommodated. He declined to issue an order explicitly authorizing video voting, however, saying the determination must be made on a case-by-case basis.

“That does not mean the county recorder is free to use video voting whenever he wants or for any voter who asks,” Warner wrote. “(The law) still requires personal contact, and that statutory requirement only yields to federal law when necessary to allow a disabled person to vote.”

Bipartisan special election boards are a method of helping voters cast a ballot if they're unable to mark it themselves. One Republican and one Democrat deliver a ballot and fill it out according to the voter's instructions. To avoid potentially exposing vulnerable people to the coronavirus, Fontes, a Democrat, used video conferencing for 10 special election boards during the primaries in August.

Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, also a Democrat, issued guidance to all 15 county recorders with procedures for video voting. That prompted a tense exchange of letters between Hobbs and Ducey over the legality of the practice.

“This is a win for accessibility,” Fontes said in a statement. "We will continue to provide this option to the most vulnerable population of Maricopa County voters when necessary, ensuring compliance with all applicable law.”

A spokesman for Ducey, Ben Petersen, said the governor's office is reviewing the ruling.

The Show talked with Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services about the decision.

More Stories From KJZZ

PoliticsThe Show Disability