Arizona must count wrong precinct ballots?

An attorney representing several Arizona voters and the state and national Democratic parties urged a federal appeals court panel Wednesday to order the counting of ballots cast by voters in the wrong precinct.


arizona must count wrong precinct ballots


The attorney, Elisabeth Frost, noted that nearly that nearly 11,000 Arizona voters had their ballots tossed in the 2012 presidential election. She argued those actions disproportionately deprived minorities of their right to vote and should be blocked.

“That’s probably a conservative number, because we have to believe that for the voters that are told they are in the wrong place, or are told the ballot they are casting is (not going to count), some of them are just going to say “I’m not going to bother,” Frost told the three judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Chief Judge Sidney Thomas, the only member of the panel appointed by a Democrat, seemed unpersuaded.

“Arizona points out that they’ve been doing this for 40 years. What’s new?” he asked.

“First of all, the fact that they have been disenfranchising voters for a long time does not make it constitutional,” Frost said. She then noted that Arizona just enacted a law making it a felony to collect early ballots from voters, meaning it’s likely more voters will end up at incorrect polling locations this year. She also pointed out that Maricopa County allowed voters to go to any polling place during the March presidential primary.

“So it’s very concerning that the out-of-precinct policy is going to serve to disenfranchise even more voters who are going to be confused about where it is that they can go to vote,” she said.

arizona must count wrong precinct ballots

The attorney representing the state said it would be a hardship to try to count ballots cast in the wrong precinct.

“In the briefing the plaintiffs assert it would be simple for the state to count out-of-precinct ballots, and that assertion is just flat wrong, especially at this late date,” Assistant Attorney General Karen J. Hartman-Tellez told the court.

And an attorney for the Republican Party, which intervened in the case, argued that a ruling allowing the practice would hurt local candidates because their supporters might think their vote will count in those races if they go to the wrong polling place. In addition, coming up with a method to count the ballots is problematic.

“To all make this work in two weeks, just imagine the Pandora’s box that’s going to opened when it’s not exactly like the plaintiff’s wanted or another interested party wants, how that process is going to work,” attorney Brett Johnson said. “They’re going to run right back into court and say that is not in our interest.”

A U.S. District Court judge ruled earlier this month that the state has a valid reason not to count such votes because different races are on ballots in different precincts and Democrats haven’t shown that minorities were affected more than white voters.

arizona must count wrong precinct ballots

Thomas suggested it would not be that difficult to run provisional ballots through voting machines and only count the presidential votes.

Democrats, however, are asking that votes for all races where the voter is eligible to be counted.

The challenge is one of three currently before federal courts that challenge Arizona’s laws or election practices.

The same panel is considering a request by Democrats to block the ballot collection law, and a federal judge in Phoenix is considering a challenge to the state’s decision not to extend voter registration by a day because it fell on a state and federal holiday.

Decisions on all three cases are expected to come quickly.


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