Judge rejects Arizona Republican Party effort to eliminate most mail-in voting
PHOENIX – A Superior Court judge in Mohave County on Monday rejected a bid by the Arizona Republican Party to eliminate most mail-in voting in the upcoming general election.
“Is the Arizona Legislature prohibited by the Arizona Constitution from enacting voting laws that include no-excuse mail-in voting? The answer is no,” Judge Lee F. Jantzen wrote in his ruling.
The Arizona Republican Party filed the complaint against the Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, each of the state’s 15 county recorders and the state itself, arguing that mass voting by mail is inconsistent with the Arizona Constitution’s requirement for a secret ballot.
The lawsuit was filed in Mohave County based on the fact that Kelli Ward, chairwoman of the Arizona GOP, lives there.
“Not only is voting by mail constitutional, it’s safe, secure, and has been widely used by Arizona voters for decades,” Hobbs said in a statement after the ruling was released.
“I will never stop fighting to make sure every Arizona voter can cast their ballot — and trust their ballot is counted.”
Ward and the state GOP originally filed their suit directly with the Arizona Supreme Court earlier this year, a highly unusual step, but the justices said it should go through a trial court first and they would only consider it on appeal.
Jantzen heard arguments from both sides on Friday.
The state GOP wanted Jantzen to ban no-excuse voting by mail in the 2022 general election in November, but not for the primary in August, for which ballots are scheduled to be mailed next month.
In his ruling, Jantzen boiled down the case to one point and sided with the defendants on that issue.
“It is important to note what this case is not about allegations of fraud in the voting process. It is not about politics. It is not even about whether the parties believe mail-in voting is appropriate,” he wrote.
“It is about one thing: Is the Arizona Legislature prohibited by the Arizona Constitution from enacting voting laws that include no-excuse mail-in voting?”
Arizona is among the states with the highest levels of mail voting, a system that has grown overwhelmingly popular with voters from both parties as well as independents. Striking down those laws would have had major implications for the 2022 election.
Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich declined to defend the state’s mail voting laws in court. Brnovich is running in a crowded GOP primary for U.S. Senate.
With Brnovich on the sidelines, the law was instead defended by lawyers hired by Hobbs, a Democrat, along with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, which represented seven county recorders. The Arizona Democratic Party and three national Democratic Party organizations also intervened to defend the law.
“Arizona Democrats defended democracy and won, striking down the AZ GOP’s shameful, embarrassing, and unconstitutional effort to try and end early voting in our state,” Arizona Democratic Party Chairwoman Raquel Teran said in a statement.
Ward and other officials from the Arizona Republican Party did not immediately comment.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.