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Legislation to extend voter registration deadline heads to Gov. Doug Ducey’s desk

(AP Photo)

PHOENIX — If Gov. Doug Ducey signs legislation headed to his desk, Arizona won’t see a repeat of a controversy that erupted last October after Secretary of State Michele Reagan set the last day for voter registration on a legal holiday.

Reagan’s decision cost at least 2,000 citizens their vote in November and led to a federal lawsuit by state and national Democratic parties. A federal judge ruled the Democrats likely would have won but waited too long to file the lawsuit.

Reagan refused to extend the Oct. 10 voter registration deadline even though it fell on Columbus Day. The Democrats noted there’s no mail service and state motor vehicle offices were closed that day and sued on Oct. 19.

Senate Bill 1307 by Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, passed the House unanimously Tuesday and previously passed the Senate with unanimous support. The bill adds an extra day if the registration deadline falls on a weekend or holiday.

“If the holiday eliminates a day to register, then it’s appropriate to err on the side of making it easier to vote by extending it one day,” Kavanagh said in an interview.

Reagan argued last year that state law did not allow her to extend the voter registration deadline and resisted efforts to add a day. Former Secretary of State Ken Bennett moved the registration cutoff by one day in 2012, but Reagan spokesman Matt Roberts said previously that Reagan doesn’t believe it’s legal to do so.

Despite ruling in favor of Reagan in the Democrats’ lawsuit, U.S. District Court Judge Steven Logan criticized her decision to set the general election registration deadline on a holiday.

“The Court also observes the possibility that the Secretary set the deadlines this year without first consulting a calendar, and that if she had exercised her discretion (or her rule-making authority) from the onset, the predicament faced here could have been avoided,” Logan wrote in his Nov. 3 ruling.

According to numbers released by Reagan’s office on Monday, Arizona currently has 3,636,504 registered voters — a decrease of 9,618 registered voters since the numbers were last updated in January.

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