Navajo asks judge to extend Arizona mail-in voting deadline

PHOENIX (AP) — Members of the Navajo Nation in Arizona have sued to ensure their ballots will be counted in the state even if delivered late.

They filed a lawsuit in federal court Wednesday challenging the state’s current law, which says election officials cannot count by-mail ballots that are received after election night.

The lawsuit says that mail service is much slower and far less accessible on reservations and that the existing deadline will disenfranchise voters.

The group is asking a federal judge to require Arizona officials to certify ballots that are delivered up to 10 days after election day, as long as those ballots come from tribal members living on reservations and are postmarked on or before the day of the election, The Arizona Republic reported.

“Voting by mail systems rest upon the premise that all citizens have equal mail service, however, hundreds of thousands of rural Americans have non-standard mail service burdened with a range of service limits including irregular service or unreliable service, no residential delivery, excessive distances to post offices or other postal providers with limited hours of operation among other issues,” wrote Michael Novotny, the attorney representing the group.

The lawsuit comes amid heightened concerns that the U.S. Postal Service will not be capable of delivering a reliable election with a record number of Americans casting their ballots by mail.

Federal and state officials are currently promoting by-mail voting as a safe alternative to voting in person.

The Postal Service recommends mailing ballots seven days before election day while Arizona recommends voters send in their ballots six days beforehand.

The state Secretary of State’s Office said it would comply if the court rules in favor of the Navajo citizens.