A Montana judge has blocked new state restrictions on the collecting of others’ ballots, a victory for Native American tribes that say their members rely on the help. The law probably violates the tribal members’ right to vote because it would make it especially difficult for them to make sure their own ballots got from reservations and other remote areas to election offices, District Judge Jessica Fehr of Yellowstone County said Tuesday in putting a hold on the requirements. Her injunction, while not final, is nonetheless the latest voting rights victory for people in Indian Country, who say too many election rules disregard their special circumstances and amount to suppression. It’s also the latest turn in the generally partisan battle over so-called ballot harvesting. The American Civil Liberties Union had sued on behalf of several tribes in March, challenging a state law passed in 2017 and endorsed by statewide referendum the next year. It says caregivers, family members and acquaintances can collect no more than six ballots in an election. Proponents say such limits prevent election fraud by preventing partisan operatives from conducting mass collections of mail-in ballots — potentially from both friendly and unfriendly precincts.
Arizona: 9th Circuit Court to reconsider ruling on Arizona’s ‘ballot harvesting’ ban | Arizona Daily Star
A federal appeals court will give Democrats a new chance to argue that an Arizona law banning “ballot harvesting” is illegal. In a brief order, the majority of the judges on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said they want to review and reconsider a 2-1 ruling by one of their panels last year that upheld the 2016 law, which bars Arizonans from collecting and delivering the ballots of others. In that ruling, the majority brushed aside complaints from the state and federal Democratic parties that the Republican-controlled Legislature had no evidence of fraud from the practice. Nor were they persuaded by arguments that the restriction has a harsher effect on the voting rights of minorities than on Arizona residents in general.
Calling the lack of evidence of fraud irrelevant, a divided federal appeals court on Wednesday upheld Arizona’s ban on “ballot harvesting.” In a 2-1 ruling, the judges acknowledged arguments by the state and national Democratic parties that the Republican-controlled Legislature adopted the HB 2023, the 2016 law, without any proof that anyone who was collecting ballots had, in fact, tampered with them. And the majority noted there are other state laws which have, for years, made it illegal to tamper with ballots. But Judge Sandra Ikuta, writing for the majority, said none of that is required for lawmakers to do what they did. “A state need not show specific local evidence of fraud in order to justify preventive measures,” she wrote for herself and Judge Carlos Bea. She said courts are entitled to uphold such laws if they serve the state’s interest in maintaining public confidence in the integrity of the electoral process, “even in the absence of any evidence that the public’s confidence has been undermined.”
A judge has upheld a 2016 Arizona law that bans groups from collecting early mail-in ballots from voters and delivering them, marking the second time this year that a legal challenge to the statute has failed. U.S. District Judge Douglas Rayes on Friday dismissed the latest challenge to the statute that bans anyone but caregivers or family members from delivering a completed early ballot to a polling place. The lawsuit was filed by Democratic activist Rivko Knox, who said the law caused her to stop delivering ballots for voters who request assistance. Rayes rejected arguments from Knox’s attorneys that the law was unconstitutional because it’s trumped by federal statutes and violated her free-speech rights.
Arizona: Judge to decide legality of Arizona law prohibiting collection of mail-in ballots | Arizona Daily Star
Attorneys for a Democratic activist told a federal judge Friday that there is a legal and constitutional right for her and others to deliver someone else’s ballot to polling places. And Spencer Scharff asked Judge Douglas Rayes to immediately quash the law and allow what’s known as “ballot harvesting” to once again be legal in time for the Aug. 28 primary. Scharff argued that federal law specifically allows individuals to deliver “mail” — and essentially compete with the U.S. Postal Service — as long as they don’t charge for the service. In these cases, he told Rayes, people like his client, Rivko Knox, who have been collecting early ballots for years, are doing that simply as a service.
Another legal challenge has been filed to a 2016 law that bars groups in Arizona from collecting early mail-in ballots from voters and delivering them as part of get-out-the-vote efforts. The lawsuit filed Tuesday seeks to bar officials from enforcing the law and alleges the statute is unconstitutional because it’s trumped by federal law. It argues the state is trying to regulate the delivery of mail-in ballots, even though federal law lets private citizens mail items that belong to others if they do so without getting paid. Nearly two months ago, a federal judge rejected another attempt to overturn the Arizona law, ruling that the people who challenged the law didn’t prove that the election practices unjustifiably burden voting or were enacted to suppress minority turnout.
A new lawsuit seeks to block Arizona from enforcing its ban on “ballot harvesting” for the upcoming election, claiming the state has no legal authority to regulate who can and cannot deliver someone else’s mail. In legal papers filed in federal court here Tuesday, attorney Spencer Scharff is arguing that only Congress has the right to regulate the U.S. mail. And he said that once someone puts a ballot into an envelope which has prepaid postage on it, it becomes “mail.” What all that means, said Scharff, is a 2016 statutes that makes it a felony to collect early ballots and deliver them to polling places is preempted by federal law. And he is asking U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Rayes to put the law on “hold” until there can be a full hearing on the issue.
A federal judge has rejected a Democratic effort to overturn a 2016 Arizona law barring groups from collecting early ballots from voters as part of their get-out-the-vote efforts. The ruling issued by U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Rayes Tuesday evening comes in a lawsuit filed shortly after the law was passed by the Republican-controlled Arizona Legislature. Rayes also rejected challenges by national and state Democratic groups that alleged the state’s policy of rejecting ballots cast in the wrong precinct was illegal. Democratic groups argue the law banning the collection of early ballots disproportionately affects minority voters. Gov. Doug Ducey has called it a common-sense law to protect election integrity. Violators of the law that bans anyone but caregivers or family members from delivering a completed early ballot to a polling place can face a felony charge.
A Nebraska lawmaker is concerned about the practice of ballot collection by third parties. Volunteers have been stationed outside Millard Public Schools in Omaha to collect completed mail-in ballots for the levy override election ending Nov. 14. The vote involves an extra 9-cent property tax levy authority for the school board, the Omaha World-Herald reported. Volunteer organizers said the effort is aimed at boosting turnout. They said they collect and turn in anyone’s ballot regardless of the person’s opinion on the override. Organizers said the effort is a matter of convenience in a time when people are less likely to possess stamps.
The Arizona Democratic Party goes to federal court Tuesday, Oct. 3, in a bid to overturn a ban on “ballot harvesting” and ensure that ballots cast in the wrong precinct are counted anyway. The Democrats’ attorney, Bruce Spiva, contends the Republican-controlled Legislature acted illegally last year in making it a felony for an individual to take anyone else’s early ballot to a polling place. Spiva said he will present evidence that the measure will cause undue harm to minorities and other groups. But Sara Agne, attorney for the Arizona Republican Party, who is defending the law, will argue that lawmakers were entitled to put procedures in place designed to prevent fraud. Spiva could have an uphill battle.
Sara Deloach. Patricia Brooks. Judy Lewis. Candidates in Columbus and Lowndes County the past 40-plus years likely know at least one, if not all, of these women and might have used their services. The three, and others, have built a loyal among elderly and residents with disabilities for whom they provide witness signatures on absentee ballots — election after election. State law allows voters who are 65 and older, or will otherwise be unavailable to vote on election day, to cast absentees through the mail or in person at a city registrar’s office for municipal elections or circuit clerk’s office for all others. Most absentees must be signed and witnessed by a notary public or court clerk. But in cases where voters are illiterate or temporarily or permanently disabled, anyone at least 18 years old can provide a witness signature on their mail-in absentee ballots.
Voters in the 2018 general election will decide whether to enact proposed restrictions for individuals that collect and turn in absentee ballots during Montana’s elections, pending an Attorney General’s office review of legislation passed Thursday. By a 51-49 vote, the state House voted passed Senate Bill 352 before taking a four-day break for the Easter holiday last week, sending the referendum to the Department of Justice for a legal review. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Al Olszewski, R-Kalispell, said his proposed referendum was a response to reports of possible ballot tampering associated with the get-out-the-vote practice, sometimes called “ballot harvesting.” No such cases of purported tampering have been confirmed in Montana.
The Supreme Court issued an order on Saturday allowing Arizona to enforce a law banning so-called ballot harvesting, in which others collect voters’ completed absentee ballots and submit them to election officials. The court’s two-sentence order stayed a ruling from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that would have temporarily blocked the law. The justices gave no reasons for reviving the law, but the court often views last-minute changes to election procedures with disfavor. Arizona allows voters to submit absentee ballots by mail or in person. The challenged law, enacted this year, barred letting others collect the ballots, with exceptions for family members and caregivers. According to officials in Arizona, there are similar laws in 26 other states and nearly identical ones in “14 other states that make mass ballot collection in some form a felony.”
Federal appellate judges on Wednesday questioned assertions by attorneys for the state and its Republican Party allies that a new law outlawing “ballot harvesting” does not target minorities. Assistant Attorney General Karen Hartman-Tellez argued that the law, approved earlier this year, is a legitimate — and legal — effort by the Republican-controlled legislature to ensure the integrity of elections. She conceded that making it a felony to collect the ballots of others might result in some inconvenience. But Hartman-Tellez said there was no proof that minorities would be harder hit.
Arizona Democrats will ask a federal appeals court on Monday to put on hold a state law that criminalizes the practice of ballot collection, arguing that the law could disenfranchise thousands of voters — particularly in minority communities — that rely upon neighbors and activists to collect and hand deliver early ballots. Last month a federal judge declined to enjoin the law for now ruling that the challengers had not shown that it would “disparately impact” minority voters. “Deference to the judgments made by Arizona’s elected representatives in exercising their constitutionally prescribed authority to regulate elections is, therefore, required,” Judge Douglas L. Rayes of the the US District Court for the District of Arizona said. But in an unusual order, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday agreed to hear an expedited appeal with briefs due from both sides by close of business Monday. The court has scheduled oral arguments for October 19. “This litigation is a good example of the clash between Republican elective operatives who say they are trying to root out voter fraud and Democratic leaning activists who are trying to open access to the ballot as much as possible,” said election law expert Joshua A. Douglas at the University of Kentucky College of Law.
Federal judges dealt double blows to Democrats’ efforts to challenge Arizona election laws Tuesday, with an appeals court panel refusing to block a new law prohibiting get-out-the-vote groups from collecting early ballots and a U.S. District Court judge declining to order Arizona to count votes cast in the wrong precinct. The rulings came in different parts of the same lawsuit filed by Democratic voters and national and state Democratic groups, along with presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. It was filed after major problems with long lines during the March presidential primary election and the signing of the new ballot collection law by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey. In the ballot collection portion, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to overturn a decision by U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Rayes that kept the new law in effect. It means people who collect ballots for delivery to the polls in most cases face a felony charge.
Democrats are taking their fight to block a controversial voting law to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, after a federal judge Friday denied their request for an injunction. U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Rayes rejected a request from state and national Democrats to suspend Arizona’s law that bans ballot collection. He found the Democrats did not demonstrate that the new law would hurt minority voters more so than others, and said it would have a minimal effect, if any, on broader voting rights. That means that in the Nov. 8 election, as it was in the Aug. 30 primary, people who attempt to take another person’s mail-in ballot to elections officials will be subject to penalties.
The state Republican Party is training volunteers to look for and document illegal “ballot harvesting” after county election officials said they won’t enforce the new law. Party Chairman Robert Graham said the volunteers, who already are designated as poll watchers, will be the eyes and ears of the GOP to look for those who show up with multiple ballots. And he said they will be given a checklist — still being developed — of what to document. Graham acknowledged that other state laws limit what party-designated observers can actually do inside the polling places. Talking to voters is forbidden, as is photography. But Graham said they’re still free to follow voters out into the parking lot, ask them questions, take their pictures and photograph their vehicles and license plate. That information, he said, might give police and prosecutors the information they need to bring charges.
Arizona: Maricopa County poll workers won’t enforce new ballot-harvesting law | The Arizona Republic
Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell will not enforce a new election law in the Aug. 30 primary, disappointing Republicans who say it’s necessary to prevent voter fraud. The law prohibits anyone in Arizona — except family members, household members and caregivers — from delivering another person’s ballot to a polling place or election site. Community groups, largely Democratic but some GOP, have collected ballots from voters in the past and delivered them in bulk, often after it’s too late for voters to mail their ballots before Election Day or when voters cannot make it to the polls themselves. Opponents of the practice say it provides an opportunity for voter fraud, although there is no evidence it has occurred.
Lawyers representing state and national Democratic groups opposed to a new Arizona law outlawing collection of early ballots by get-out-the-vote groups urged a federal judge Wednesday to block it from going into effect. U.S. District Court Judge Douglas L. Rayes heard nearly two hours of arguments Wednesday for and against the Democrats’ request for an injunction blocking the law from taking effect. He said he’ll rule later on the request. The law makes it a felony to return someone else’s ballot to election officials in most cases. Republicans pushed House Bill 2023 through the Legislature earlier this year, arguing that so-called “ballot harvesting” can lead to election fraud. Gov. Doug Ducey signed it into law in early March, saying it will ensure a chain of custody between the voter and the ballot box. “We join 18 other states in this common sense approach to maintaining the integrity of our elections,” Ducey said in a statement.
The top election officials in Pima and Maricopa counties say they will not enforce a new state law that makes “ballot harvesting” a crime. “We’re not police,” said Pima County Elections Director Brad Nelson. “People bring early ballots to us, we’re going to process them like we always have,” said Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell. And that means whether someone brings in their own ballot — or a basket full of them. Potentially more significant, both Nelson and Purcell said they will not take down the names of those who show up with multiple ballots. The law that takes effect Saturday makes it a felony, punishable by a year in state prison, to knowingly collect blank or filled-out early ballots from another person. Rebecca Wilder, spokeswoman for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, said the only way for her office to bring charges against someone for violating the law is if there is first a report to prosecutors from a law enforcement agency. If election officials do not take names, there is nothing to provide to police and, therefore, nothing to report to prosecutors.
A U.S. district court judge may decide two critical issues in Arizona before the November presidential election: whether to stop the state’s new so-called “ballot harvesting” law from taking effect and whether to force elections officials to count out-of-precinct provisional ballots. The Democratic National Committee and a group of voters have filed a lawsuit accusing officials of voter suppression after people in Maricopa County – the state’s largest county – waited for hours to cast their ballots in the March 22 presidential preference election. They also claim that making ballot harvesting a felony could disenfranchise thousands of minority voters.
Arizona: Fact Check: Michele Reagan’s duties don’t include collecting ballots | The Arizona Republic
On the day of the presidential preference election, March 22, Reagan asked a member of her staff to collect ballots from workers in the Capitol’s Executive Tower, including the Governor’s Office. Reagan admitted collecting ballots in an interview with Capitol Media Services. This admission elicited cries of hypocrisy from critics who said she had violated House Bill 2023, which outlaws most early ballot collection. Reagan had supported the legislation, which Gov. Doug Ducey signed on March 9. The legislation, which takes effect this summer, makes unauthorized ballot collection a Class 6 felony. The law, intended to prevent voter fraud, exempts election officials and postal workers engaged in their “official duties,” as well as a voter’s family members, caregiver, or member of their household. Reagan told Capitol Media Services her actions would not have violated the law had it been in effect because she and her staff would be considered “election officials” performing “official duties.”
Arizona’s new law that criminalizes the collection of voters’ early ballots by volunteers could impact the ability of the elderly and Latinos to cast their votes, according to local voter outreach groups. For the staff and volunteers who work with Latino-focused voter advocacy groups, ballot collecting is a means of outreach that accompanies voter registration, translating ballots and going door-to-door to remind people to vote. Although there is no available data on the number of ballots collected from people on the early voting list, the advocacy organizations’ staff and volunteers interviewed by Cronkite News said the new law will hinder their work and add another hurdle for voters to jump.
A bill to keep voters from casting ballots using the names of dead people received preliminary approval Monday in the Arizona Senate even though there was no evidence that type of fraud was occurring in the state. Arizona conservatives are pushing the legislation in the wake of legislative victories that include limiting the collection of early ballots and erecting more hurdles to get initiatives on the ballot. Republicans say the measures help protect against voter fraud while Democrats argue the moves limit voter participation.
Saying it will maintain election integrity, Gov. Doug Ducey on Wednesday signed legislation to make felons out of those who collect the ballots of others to bring them to the polls. HB2023, which takes effect later this year, will allow judges to impose a presumptive one-year prison term and potential $150,000 fine for the current practice…
A proposed state law that would prohibit taking someone else’s early ballot to a polling place is getting mixed reactions here, with some saying it would deny home-bound or disabled people their right to vote and others saying the measure would help prevent electoral fraud. In San Luis, it has been a practice for decades for campaign workers of candidates for city and county offices to collect early ballots from voters who presumably can’t get to the polls on election day, or who otherwise need help voting. But ballot collecting – sometimes called “ballot harvesting” – has also raised concerns that the practice leaves open the possibility that vote collectors could pressure voters to vote a certain way, or that the ballots could be trashed or altered before being delivered to the poll.