Court blocks move to give voters time to fix early ballots

October 6, 2020 GMT

PHOENIX (AP) — A federal appeals court on Tuesday blocked a move that would have given Arizona voters who forget to sign their early ballot affidavits up to five days after the election to fix the problem.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals put a lower court ruling on hold as it considers an appeal from Republican Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich.

There was no indication the 9th Circuit woud rule on the appeal before the Nov. 3 general election.

Democratic groups argued it was unfair for election officials to deny voters more time to fix the ballots. The groups argued that Arizona election rules allow county recorders five days after an election to have voters whose signatures don’t match those on file to come to the office and show they actually signed the ballot affidavit.

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The same five days goes for people who arrive at the polls to vote in person but lack required identification.

But the 9th Circuit’s order said Arizona’s use of Election Day as the deadline for voters to add missing signatures was reasonable “to promote its unquestioned interest in administering an orderly election and to facilitate its already burdensome job of collecting, verifying, and counting all of the votes in timely fashion.”

Brnovich’s office had argued the previous U.S. District Court ruling brushed aside a state law requiring absentee ballots to be returned with a signature by close of polls on Election Day.

Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, Arizona’s chief election officer, had wanted the extra five days included in the state’s updated election procedures manual. Brnovich refused to sign off on the provision, so Hobbs removed it.

In 2016, Arizona rejected just over 3,000 ballots for not having a signature.

More than 75% of Arizona voters cast ballots by mail. They are mailed a ballot, mark it and put it in a return envelope. They sign the back of the sealed envelope, and election officials check that signature against the one on file. If they match, the envelope is opened and the ballot placed in a stack with other ballots for counting.

Brnovich’s office represented the state in the case, and state and national Republican groups and President Donald Trump’s campaign joined in arguing against allowing extra time to fix the ballots.