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No Immediate Decision On Arizona Ballot Harvesting Law

Paul Atkinson/KJZZ
/
file | staff

Supporters of a new Arizona law making it a felony to harvest, or collect, ballots argued in federal court Wednesday that it will prevent voter fraud that’s occurred in other states, and preserve the integrity of elections.

But an attorney for plaintiffs seeking a preliminary injunction against House Bill 2023 said the state lured minority voters into a practice that is now a felony.

The plaintiffs argued during the hearing that socioeconomic status keeps minority voters from waiting in long lines to vote, and Arizona has encouraged them to cast ballots by mail.

If HB 2023 is allowed to take affect, it will outlaw the way many Hispanics, Native Americans and African Americans return their ballots to be counted, said attorney Marc Elias.

“For the state to now turn around and criminalize the process by which people get their completed mail ballot back to the state is really troubling,” Elias said after the hearing.

Lawyers representing the defendants declined comment after the hearing. They argued in court HB 2023 does not seek to discriminate against minorities, and the plaintiffs have failed to show quantitative proof that it will disproportionately impact minorities.

Maricopa and Mohave county officials have said they won’t enforce the law in November because the state has not given direction on who should do it, or how.

Questions about how to apply the law should not factor into the judge’s decision whether to block it, Elias said.  

“Because there is still going to be people who are afraid to engage in the exercise of their right to vote and the return of their ballot because they’ve read that there is now a criminal law,” Elias said.

The judge did not issue a ruling Wednesday, and said he would take it under advisement.

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Matthew Casey has won Edward R. Murrow awards for hard news and sports reporting since he joined KJZZ as a senior field correspondent in 2015.