Federal appeals court stays Arizona voter registration deadline extension
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Federal appeals court stays Arizona voter registration deadline extension

A federal appeals court has ended the extension for voter registration in Arizona.

The original voter registration cutoff date for the presidential election was October 5, 2020. However, due to COVID-19, plaintiffs’ registration efforts were halted because of state-mandated shutdowns. Despite the halt in government, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs did not extend the voter registration deadline. As a result, plaintiffs filed suit arguing that the deadline was unconstitutional in violation of their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The District Court agreed with plaintiffs, extending the voter registration deadline to October 23.

The appeals court took an opposing view, as it ruled to stay the injunction set forth by the district court. More specifically the court reasoned, that the “statutory deadline does not impose a severe burden” on plaintiffs, and the “administrative burdens on the state imposed by an October 23 registration deadline are significant” because it makes it difficult for the Secretary and other election officials to “fulfill their statutory obligations in administering the election.”

The court further stated:

Even if the burden on voter registration were greater and the burden on the government less, courts weigh when contemplating ordering last-minute changes to state election rules, the consideration that court orders affecting elections, especially conflicting orders, can themselves result in voter confusion, and the risk increases as election draws closer. Just last week, a motions panel of our court observed that “as we rapidly approach the election, the public interest is well served by preserving Arizona’s existing election laws, rather than by sending the State scrambling to implement and administer a district court’s order.” There  may well be cases where a state election rule is so constitutionally problematic because of events such as a pandemic or natural disaster that a federal court must intervene, even shortly before an election But this is not such a case.

This prospective stay was implemented on October 13 with a two-day grace period.