Arizona Republican Party urges judge to end mail-in voting

By Vaughan Jones
Associated Press
Published: Sunday, June 5, 2022 - 10:00pm

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Kelli Ward
Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services
Kelli Ward in 2019.

A lawyer for the Arizona Republican Party and its firebrand leader, Kelli Ward, urged a judge Friday to invalidate Arizona's overwhelmingly popular system of mail-in voting, a process used by about 90% of voters.

Voting by mail is inconsistent with the Arizona Constitution’s requirement for a secret ballot, attorney Alex Kolodin argued. He urged a Mohave County judge to ban the practice for nearly all voters in the 2022 general election in November, but not for the primary in August, for which ballots are scheduled to be mailed next month.

The case is the latest in a multi-pronged effort by Ward and the Arizona Republican Party to roll back a system of no-excuse absentee voting that the GOP-controlled Legislature has adopted since 1991. They’ve pushed to require most people to cast a ballot in person on Election Day as former President Donald Trump repeats the lie that he lost the 2020 election because of fraud in Arizona and other battleground states.

Only the voters, not the Legislature, can authorize mail voting by amending the constitution, Kolodin argued.

“I think it’s time for our state to have that debate and voters to get to decide for themselves what sort of system of absentee voting they are comfortable with,” Kolodin said.

Lawyers for state and county election officials as well as the Arizona Democratic Party said the vote-by-mail laws have plenty of secrecy safeguards built in and nothing in the state constitution prohibits the Legislature from allowing citizens to vote that way.

They also said it would be extremely difficult for election officials to vastly expand in-person polling places, which served just 10% of voters in 2020, in time for the 2022 general election.

“They are not magicians,” said Karen Hartman-Tellez, a lawyer from the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office representing election officials in six counties. “They cannot conjure polling places or poll workers out of nothing.”

Mohave County Superior Court Judge Lee Jantzen said he hopes to issue a ruling by noon on Monday.

Ward and the state GOP originally filed their lawsuit 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. They refiled the case last month in Mohave County, the most conservative county in the state and where Ward lives.

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