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Federal Lawsuit Challenges 2 New Arizona GOP Voting Laws

Published: Tuesday, August 17, 2021 - 1:39pm
Updated: Wednesday, August 18, 2021 - 9:22am

A federal lawsuit challenging two new state election laws claims the policies are unnecessary and designed to make it harder for Arizonans to vote.

Those new laws, adopted earlier this year by Republican lawmakers, would remove an estimated 150,000 voters who don’t vote frequently from Arizona’s early ballot mailing list and give voters who forget to sign their early ballot envelopes less time to fix the issue and ensure their vote is counted.

Mi Familia Vota, Arizona Coalition for Change, Living United for Change in Arizona and Chispa Arizona filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District in Arizona on Tuesday. 

They’re asking a judge to prohibit state election officials from enforcing the law on the grounds that they violate the U.S. Constitution and parts of the Voting Rights Act because of the policies’ “discriminatory intent” and, they argue, a lack of a legitimate state interest to change the way the elections are run.

“Arizona election officials have stated that there has been no incident of widespread voter fraud in connection with Arizona’s vote-by-mail system in its 30-year history, and that the 2020 elections were successful,” Courtney Hostetler, an attorney with Free Speech For People, said in a statement. “These laws will not prevent non-existent fraud; they will, however, make voting less accessible, particularly for voters of color in Arizona.”

Senate Bill 1485, sponsored by Republican Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita rebrands Arizona’s popular Permanent Early Voting List — PEVL for short  as the “Active” Early Voting List.

The law will remove voters from the list if they don't use their early ballot at least once in two straight two-year election cycles, and if they don't respond to a notice from county officials, warning them of the removal.

Republicans defended the bill as an effort to clean up the mailing list and avoid possible fraud.

Alex Gomez, co-executive director of LUCHA, said Republicans are more concerned with the state’s rapidly changing electorate and how that impacts GOP candidates’ electability.

“Those in power in Arizona are terrified that the state’s electorate is dramatically changing, becoming younger and more diverse,” Gomez said in a statement. “In an attempt to retain their political power, they have launched an assault on the voting rights of hundreds of thousands of Black, Brown, and Indigenous voters.”

SB 1003 makes a new distinction among early ballots that need to be “cured,” a process that grants voters five business days after Election Day to prove that an early ballot is their own.

This often occurs when local election officials can’t verify a voters’ signature on their early ballot envelope. But now voters who forget to sign the envelope at all won’t have the extra five business days to fix their error  envelopes with missing signatures must now be “cured” by 7 p.m. on election night.

Katie Conner, a spokeswoman for Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, vowed he would defend the state's new election laws.

“The Attorney General’s job to defend election laws passed by the Arizona Legislature is paramount,” Conner said in a statement.