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Arizona lawsuit over early ballot return deadline settled

(KTAR News Photo)

PHOENIX — Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs announced on Friday a settlement was reached with a nonprofit organization in a lawsuit over the deadline to return early ballots.

Voto Latino, an organization aimed at encouraging young Hispanic and Latino people to register to vote, filed a complaint with Priorities USA in November 2019 against Hobbs.

The law requires ballots to be received by county election officials by 7 p.m. on Election Day.

The groups in the complaint stated many ballots in the past have arrived after the deadline and were rejected due to people incorrectly believing the ballot is timely as long as they are postmarked by Election Day.

They also cited that mail is unreliable and delay-ridden in rural areas.

While the settlement between Hobbs and the groups will leave the current deadline in place, the Secretary of State’s office will attempt to address items contributing to the late returns.

The Secretary of State’s office in the settlement is committing to conducting voter outreach and education about Election Day deadline in multiple languages, launching a webpage with information about voting by mail and ballot-drop options and allocating funding for counties to increase early voting opportunities.

“We were able to come to an agreement quickly in this case because our office was already working on many of the initiatives being requested,” Hobbs said in a press release.

“This settlement was possible because both sides share the same goal of ensuring voters have the ability to participate in a way that is meaningful to them.”

The settlement also tasks the Secretary of State’s office with studying the feasibility of implementing a postmark deadline for future elections.

“I look forward to continuing this work in partnership with Voto Latino, Priorities USA, and other voting rights organizations throughout Arizona,” Hobbs said. 

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