Early voting — 06/06 BULLETIN WRITETHRU – adds details, comment — and fixes date of constitution to 1912 sted 2012.
PHOENIX — Millions of Arizonans will not lose the right to vote early, at least not now.
In a 5-page ruling Monday, Mohave County Superior Court Judge Lee Jantzen rejected claims by the Arizona Republican Party that lawmakers violated the state constitution in 1991 when they agreed to let anyone request the right to vote by mail.
Jantzen acknowledged that Alexander Kolodin, attorney for the GOP and party Chair Kelli Ward, presented examples of “bad actors” violating laws deal with early voting. That included instances in Yuma County where a woman last week pleaded guilty to collecting the early ballots of others and, in some cases, marking how they should be voted.
“These example are concerning but they do not address the issue before the court: the constitutionality of the statutes in question,” the judge wrote.
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“Furthermore, they do not show a pattern of conduct so egregious as to undermine the entire system of no-excuse mail-in voting as provided by the Arizona Legislature,” he continued. “Enforcement mechanisms exist within the statutes to punish those that do not abide by the statutes.”
Jantzen also pointed out that state and local election officials have been administering the system for more than 30 years.
“The laws are far from perfect and nobody anticipated 30 years ago that approximately 90% of Arizona voters would vote by mail during a pandemic,” the judge wrote. “But these laws are NOT in violation of the Arizona Constitution.”
And Jantzen specifically rejected claims by Kolodin that the people who crafted the 1912 Arizona Constitution never intended for lawmakers to pass measures to allow widespread early voting.
“They are not inapposite of the framers of the constitution who emphasized the right to suffrage for Arizona citizens and that the voters’ ballots be secret,” he said. “The laws passed by the Arizona legislature in 1991 further those goals.”
Kolodin said it is “likely” there will be an appeal. In fact, he told Capitol Media Services that Monday’s ruling that early voting is constitutional legal is not really a surprise.
“What superior court judge wants to say otherwise and take that responsibility onto himself,” he said. “I can’t think of many judges who would.”
But Kolodin said he and state GOP officials will have to analyze the ruling “and make our determination.”
The Arizona Constitution gives lawmakers the power to decide voting methods.
Kolodin, however, pointed out it also says that “secrecy in voting shall be preserved.” And he said that’s not possible if ballots are mailed to millions of Arizonans, all of whom could be influenced or pressured to vote a certain way, perhaps by employers or union organizers looking over their shoulder while they fill them out.
Jantzen, however, wasn’t buying it.
Howard Fischer is a veteran journalist who has been reporting since 1970 and covering state politics and the Legislature since 1982. Follow him on Twitter at “@azcapmedia” or email email@example.com.