Arizona Democrats Ask Court To Block Ballot Harvesting Law

By Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services
Published: Wednesday, October 19, 2016 - 5:34pm

Arizona Democrats made a last-minute pitch Wednesday to be able to collect and deliver ballots in the current election.

The Republican-controlled legislature voted earlier this year to make it a felony to collect anyone else's early ballot and bring it to the polling place.

The only exceptions are for relatives, caregivers and those in the same household. Attorney Bruce Spiva told judges of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that a trial judge got it wrong when he concluded the law did not unfairly impact minority voters.

"Without relief from this court, thousands of voters who have in the past relied on those friends and volunteers to help them will either not be able to vote or will only be able to do so through significant hardship," Spiva said.

He cited the lack of mailboxes in rural areas and on reservations and said minorities have less access to transportation.  Assistant Attorney General Karen Hartman-Tellez said that's not enough to void the law.

"There isn't a single declaration, anything, from a person who says, I can't, I'm going to not be able to vote now that this law is in effect, or that it's going to be much more difficult for me to vote," Hartman-Tellez said.

Sara Agne, an attorney for the state Republican Party, also asked the appellate judges to uphold the law, saying it helps protect against election fraud.

"It's in the state's interest to have that chain of custody information," Agne said. "That's one of the reasons the state has implemented this sensible election regulation."

She said a majority of other states have similar laws, though only a handful make it a felony like Arizona. Spiva told the judges that fear of fraud is not enough to impose this kind of burden.

"This law might disenfranchise thousands of people on the one hand," Spiva said. "On the other hand, not one single instance of fraud has been shown."

He said the legislature specifically rejected ways of making the law less onerous, like allowing ballot collection when the voter specifically signs an affidavit giving his or her approval. With early voting already underway, the court is likely to rule within days.