Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Friday, April 15, 2016

Democratic Party lawsuit challenges Arizona election schemes that caused last month's debacle

Today, pursuant to news released and reported on Thursday, the Arizona Democratic Party and the Democratic National Committee joined with several other plaintiffs and filed suit in United State District Court, District of Arizona, challenging the State of Arizona, including Secretary of State Michelle Reagan, the Maricopa County Supervisors and County Recorder Helen Purcell regarding voting laws and procedures. The 51-page lawsuit was brought,
to secure equitable relief from Defendants’ unlawful deprivation of Plaintiffs’ (and, in the case of the organizational Plaintiffs, their members’ and constituents’) rights, privileges, and immunities guaranteed by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, 52 U.S.C. § 10301, and the laws of the United States.
According to statistical estimations presented in the AUDIT-AZ lawsuit (last week), more than 150,000 voters in Maricopa County were disenfranchised by the violations of the Voting Rights Act challenging in this new legal action.

This suit also challenges the recent legislation (HB2023) making felons out of those who assist voters in getting their signed, sealed early ballots delivered to elections officials.
2. “No right is more precious in a free country than that of having a voice in the election of those who make the laws . . . .” Wesberry v. Sanders, 376 U.S. 1, 17 (1964). Plaintiffs bring the instant lawsuit to protect that right and to prevent the continued disenfranchisement of thousands of Arizona voters—including specifically Arizona’s Hispanic, Native-American, and African-American voters—whose right to vote has been and will continue to be denied or unreasonably infringed upon due to the lack of oversight for Maricopa County’s allocation of polling locations; Arizona’s practice of not counting provisional ballots cast in a precinct or voting area other than the one to which the voter is assigned; and the State’s recent criminalization of the collection of signed and sealed absentee ballots with the passage of H.B. 2023.
The suit cites the history of Arizona being subject to preclearance of changes to voting laws and procedures before they could take effect -- because of the Voting Rights Act which in 2013 was defanged by the Supreme Court in Shelby County v Holder.

The suit then recites last month's debacle regarding the Presidential Preference Election in Maricopa County.

8. Arizona is also arbitrarily and disparately disenfranchising voters at alarming rates through its provisional balloting process, in which the ballots of some voters are rejected where they cast their ballot in the right jurisdiction but in a precinct different than the one to which they are assigned (“out of precinct” voting), while others are counted so long as they vote in any polling location found within the jurisdiction. Effectively, this means the ability of Arizona citizens to have their vote counted in such circumstances depends entirely on the county in which they live. These arbitrary differences cause voter confusion, which is compounded by the fact that some of the jurisdictions that accept out-of-precinct ballots in one election (e.g., Maricopa County in the PPE), may reject them in the next (e.g., Maricopa County in the 2016 general election). It is therefore not surprising that, in 2014, Arizona ranked fifth in the nation for the total number of provisional ballots rejected. The main reason that Arizona refused to count provisional ballots in 2014 was that they were cast in a precinct other than the one to which the voter was assigned. In Maricopa County alone, over 2,800 ballots were rejected for this reason. Upon information and belief, the provisional ballots cast and rejected across the state were disproportionately cast by Hispanic voters.
Therefore, the plaintiffs seek the following relief,
WHEREFORE, Plaintiffs pray for judgment in their favor and against Defendants as follows:
A. An order declaring that:
1. Arizona’s prohibition on the counting of out-of-precinct provisional has a disparate effect on Hispanic, Native-American, and African-American voters in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act;
2. Arizona’s prohibition on the counting of out-of-precinct provisionalballots burdens Arizona voters generally and, specifically, Hispanic, African-American, and Native-American voters as well as voters in Maricopa County without a sufficient state justification for doing so, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; 
3. Arizona’s policy of rejecting provisional ballots cast out of precinct in certain jurisdictions, while allowing for the counting of ballots cast out of precinct in others, violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment;
4. H.B. 2023 violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution; and 
5. The rights and privileges of Plaintiffs will be irreparably harmed without the intervention of this Court.
B. An order preliminarily and permanently enjoining Defendants, their respective agents, officers, employees, successors, and all persons acting in concert with each or any of them from: 
1. Allocating polling locations for the 2016 general election in Maricopa County without first submitting the allocation plan to this Court for review and approval to ensure that the plan is in keeping with state and federal law, Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, and the United States Constitution;
2. Rejecting provisional ballots solely because they were cast in the wrong precinct or polling location, and requiring that such ballots be counted for all elections in which the elector is eligible to vote; 
3. Implementing, enforcing, or giving any effect to the challenged provisions of H.B. 2023.
C. An order requiring the Maricopa County Defendants to draft and submit to this Court for review and approval a contingency plan to address and remedy long wait times should they occur in the 2016 general election;
I'm not sure to what extend corporate media will compare and contrast this action with that filed one week ago by AUDIT-AZ. Briefly, Brakey's lawsuit goes after the balloting and ballot counting systems and procedures, as well as some of the points in this latest suit. But today's filing goes after the broader issues of racial discrimination and violations of the Voting Rights Act.

As I learn more about responses to these lawsuits as well as hearings to sort out the issues, I will keep you posted.

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