AZ election officials scramble after judge extends voter registration deadline
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Arizona election officials are scrambling to accommodate a federal judge's order that the state extend its voter registration deadline by nearly three weeks.
The news broke just hours before Monday's initial deadline for voters to sign up to cast a ballot in the November presidential election.
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U.S. District Court Judge Steven P. Logan ordered the deadline moved to 5 p.m. GMT on Friday, Oct. 23, citing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and complaints that public health restrictions had disrupted in-person registration efforts.
While those who had asked for the extension cheered the ruling, others warned it would tamper with a carefully planned election.
Early voting began on Wednesday in the Copper State.
Republicans – who control the state legislature – swiftly filed an appeal, and it remains unclear how many more residents might register to vote under the extension.
Temporary election worker Joseph Banar disinfects voting stations as a precaution against the coronavirus, while a steady stream of voters participates in the first day of balloting in New Mexico at the Santa Fe Convention Center on Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee)
On Monday, Maricopa County – home to the state's capital – reportedly received more than 41,000 voter registration forms, the most the county has received in a single day since the start of the calendar year.
AZ Central noted that election officials believe the number of people registering to vote will drop off closer to the new deadline.
Nevertheless, they recommend anyone registering to vote now should give their counties ample time to process the registration.
Voters who are not logged into the system by the time they get to the polls will receive a provisional ballot.
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The Republican National Committee and Republican National Senatorial Committee are fighting the deadline extension at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Higher courts had previously rejected some calls to change other election policies due to the pandemic.
In a court filing on Tuesday, the groups argued that the longstanding voter deadline is meant to align with other important aspects of the process.
“In inflicting this eleventh-hour change on Arizona’s electoral infrastructure, the district court’s order contravenes repeated, and recently reiterated, admonitions by this court and the U.S. Supreme Court against judicial tinkering with states’ election machinery on the eve of voting,” wrote Thomas Basile, a lawyer for the groups.
The organizations that sued to change the deadline – like the Arizona Coalition for Change and Mi Familia Vota – said Tuesday they are confident their case will hold.
But it wasn't just Republicans who opposed the suit. Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs argued the extension would cause a host of problems so close to Election Day.
County election officials would have to process early ballots and new registrations at the same time and Hobbs warned that allowing voters to register near Oct. 23 means some voters may not receive a ballot in time to cast it.
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Ultimately, Logan concluded that while Arizona has made it easy to register to vote, that may not be enough.
"Ballot access is an extremely important right, and it has been restricted during this unprecedented time,” wrote Logan, who was appointed by President Barack Obama.
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