PHOENIX — Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said the Arizona Republican Party’s latest bid to kill off all early votes for this year’s election not only comes too late, but would cause chaos in counties that should create more polling stations.
In court filings on Wednesday, attorney Roopali Desai, who represents Hobbs, said the party and its chairman, Kelli Ward, had known for decades that Arizona allowed anyone to vote early. In fact, Desai said, the legislature has allowed some form of early voting since 1918.
Still, they’re seeking an order from Mohave County Superior Court Judge Lee Jantzen to ban unapologetic early voting before the Aug. 2 primary, an election where early voting actually takes place on July 6.
But Desai also told the judge that the challenge by Ward and the GOP, who doctored unproven allegations of massive fraud in the early polls, actually served a more sinister purpose.
“Their demands are part of a larger ongoing effort to cast doubt on our electoral process to justify the violation of voting rights,” she said, noting that advance and mail-in ballots accounted for nearly of 90% of the votes cast in the 2020 general elections. “Even if the plaintiffs’ claims are legally baseless, they threaten our democracy.”
The lawsuit filed by Ward and the state GOP argues that the Arizona Constitution requires ballots to be cast in person, and only on Election Day.
Much of this assertion is based on language that says “the secrecy of the vote must be preserved”.
Lawyer Anthony Kolodin says that can’t happen when people have their ballots at home where they can be influenced by others, ranging from employers to unions, who pressure people to vote somehow. But he said someone who votes in a voting booth, alone, cannot be coerced.
In April, the Arizona Supreme Court rejected his bid to kill off all forms of early voting, saying he must plead his case in front of a trial judge.
Desai said that this new version no longer had any merit.
It starts with what she calls a last-minute bid to disrupt proceedings on the eve of an election.
Consider, Desai said, the situation in Maricopa County where election officials have already determined the number of polling centers needed on the assumption that the vast majority of people will vote early.
“If the county were banned from using early voting in the 2022 election, it would be forced to try to accommodate over a million additional in-person voters on Election Day, which it didn’t have. not budgeted or planned,” she told the judge. And Desai said that while the county could make the changes, doing so at this point “would confuse voters.”
Beyond that, she said that while mail-in voting has the potential to be less secretive than in-person voting, that’s no reason for a court to interpret the Arizona Constitution as banning early voting – and no reason to believe voters are more comfortable. risk of coercion or vote buying, the latter being a crime.
“Not only is this rank speculative, it also ignores the many safeguards built into Arizona’s early voting system,” Desai said.
For example, she said, the law requires that the envelopes voters use to return their ballots conceal their contents and be tamper-proof when sealed. Desai also said election officials are required to remove ballots from envelopes — which bear the voter’s identification — without unfolding or examining them.
“And interpreting the Constitution’s ‘secrecy’ provision to restrict access to the vote would violate a fundamental right; one that constitutes the essence of American democracy,” she wrote.
Desai also said there was a bit of Arizona history that Ward and the GOP ignored in their assertion that the constitution does not allow early voting.
She pointed out that the first early voting bill was approved in 1918, allowing serving military personnel to vote by registered mail in times of war or peace.
It should be noted, Desai said, that four senators who voted for the bill were actually delegates to the state’s constitutional convention eight years earlier. The measure was signed into law by Governor George WP Hunt, who was president of that convention.
And subsequent expansion of people’s ability to vote by mail was also supported by convention delegates and signed by Hunt, including one that covers those absent from the county on Election Day and those with physical disabilities. .
“For more than 100 years, our state has preserved Arizonans’ basic right to vote by offering a form of early voting,” Desai wrote, saying the practice has proven “extremely popular.”
“Indeed, most voters in the plaintiff Arizona Republican Party are voting early, including plaintiff Ward, who voted as early as 2020.”
Desai also had more technical legal arguments for Jantzen about why Ward and the GOP lacked the legal capacity to even challenge the law in the first place.
She said Ward claims she has the right to sue “as a taxpayer since Arizona’s no-excuse mail-in voting system necessitates the illegal use of taxpayer funds.” Desai said, however, that’s not how the law works in Arizona.
“To have standing under a ‘taxpayer’ theory, a taxpayer must be able to demonstrate a direct expenditure of tax-generated funds, an increase in the collection of a tax, or a loss pecuniary attributable to the disputed transaction,” she said. the judge.
But the lawsuit, Desai said, does not challenge any specific use of taxpayer money, only the Election Law provisions allowing early voting.