Federal Judge Blocks GOP Voter Suppression Attempt

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In recent days, a federal judge blocked key provisions of another suppressive law regarding the handling of elections in Arizona.

The newly established standards temporarily suspended by the judge this past Monday include one Democracy Docket says “requires county recorders to cancel a voter’s registration if they receive confirmation that the voter is registered to vote in another Arizona county” and another that “makes it a felony to forward a mail-in ballot to a voter who may be registered in another state.” The cancellation provisions were in violation of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), according to the judge, because nowhere in the process was communication with affected voters required before cancelling their registrations. The judge said the rules Democracy Docket said criminalized forwarding mail-in ballots to voters potentially registered in other states were too vague under relevant standards.

The federal rules cited by the judge in dealing a temporary setback to the cancellation provisions demand confirmation from voters they intend to vote at their new location before the cancellation of a previous registration. Communication between county officials regarding the registration status of a voter was “insufficient to constitute confirmation from the registrant under the NVRA,” the judge said Monday. The disputed Arizona rules establishing potentially criminal consequences for assisting possibly out-of-state voters with casting a ballot in Arizona elections were “too vague to give people of ordinary intelligence notice of whether knowingly registering out-of-state voters is a crime,” the judge added.

A January article from an Arizona outlet summarizes a version of the bill approved by a state Senate committee meant “any person who knowingly helps someone who has registered to vote in a different state to cast an Arizona ballot, such as by forwarding them an early ballot,” could be held criminally responsible, although that recap cited potential misdemeanors rather than felony charges.

Regarding the cancellation of registrations, someone could be only temporarily moving to a new location, with or without the intention of voting there, and in some states, you can get registered automatically while taking some other official action, meaning a voter might not need to put a whole lot of planning into it and furthering possibilities for mistakes. Being registered to vote in more than one jurisdiction isn’t a crime, as long as a voter doesn’t cast more than one ballot. What if a voter wants to move back to the old jurisdiction or vote there instead of their new county, assuming other legal requirements are satisfied? By the time they realize the old registration was cancelled, pre-election deadlines for sorting out registration issues may have already passed, leaving them potentially without options to vote. Adding to the problem, it’s disadvantaged residents who might be more likely to move a lot at all.

As for the rules making forwarding ballots potentially a crime, voters who are outside of the state in some locales during election season can still vote by mail in their home areas. What if someone forwarding a mail-in ballot accordingly just accidentally ventures into territory covered by the challenged law? Sen. J.D. Mesnard, a GOP state Senator in Arizona who sponsored the bill, said deliberate acts assisting someone with voting in Arizona even if they weren’t legally allowed to do so were where the legislation was targeted. In general, there aren’t even real-world cases of systematic fraud in elections in Arizona or elsewhere along these lines or through any other means, meaning they’re responding to non-existent problems.