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Arizona judge denies GOP request to block absentee voting

PHOENIX – An Arizona judge on Monday denied a request by the state’s Republican Party to block most mail-in ballots for the 2022 election, while retaining the voting method used by the overwhelming majority of voters.

Mohave County Superior Court Judge Lee Jantzen ruled that nothing in the Arizona Constitution prohibits the legislature from allowing citizens to vote by mail.

The case is the latest piece of a multi-pronged effort by the Arizona Republican Party and its hotheaded leader Kelli Ward to reverse a no-parole voting system that the GOP-controlled legislature has been building since 1991. They have pushed to require almost everyone to cast a ballot in person on Election Day, as former President Donald Trump repeats the lie that he lost the 2020 election over mail-in ballot fraud in Arizona and other battleground states.

Arizona is among the states with the most mail-in ballots, a system that has become overwhelmingly popular with voters from both parties and independents. Repealing those laws would have had significant implications for Arizona’s 2022 election, which will include one of the few races that will determine which party controls the US Senate.

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Attorneys for Ward and the GOP argued that voting by mail was inconsistent with the Arizona Constitution’s requirement for a secret ballot. Attorney Alex Kolodin pointed to several clauses in the constitution that he believes taken together prove that the drafters intended to ban postal voting.

Only voters, not the legislature, can authorize postal voting by amending the constitution, Kolodin argued in court last week.

Attorneys for state and county election officials and state and national Democratic Party committees said the mail-in ballot laws contain numerous confidentiality safeguards. The judge appointed by former Republican Gov. Jan Brewer agreed.

“The laws are far from perfect and thirty years ago no one would have guessed that about 90 percent of Arizona voters would vote by mail during a pandemic, but these laws do NOT violate the Arizona Constitution,” Jantzen wrote.

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Ward and the state GOP originally filed their lawsuit directly in the Arizona Supreme Court earlier this year, a highly unusual move, but the judges said they should go through a jury trial first and would only consider it on appeal. They refiled the case last month in Mohave County, the state’s most conservative county, where Trump received 75% of the vote in 2020.

Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who has drawn Trump’s ire for not more aggressively promoting the former president’s lies about the 2020 election, declined to defend mail-in voting laws in court. Brnovich is running for the US Senate in a crowded GOP primary.

With Brnovich on the sidelines, the law was instead defended by attorneys hired by Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, along with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, who represented seven county clerks. The Arizona Democratic Party and three national Democratic Party organizations also intervened to defend the law.

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“Arizona Democrats defended democracy and won by putting down the AZ GOP’s shameful, embarrassing and unconstitutional efforts to end early voting in our state,” Arizona Democratic Party Chair Raquel Teran said in a statement Explanation.

Ward told conservative online show Just the News that the party was considering its next move and “we’re probably going to appeal to a higher court.”

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/06/06/arizona-judge-declines-gop-request-to-block-mail-voting/ Arizona judge denies GOP request to block absentee voting

Sarah Y. Kim

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