courts of appeal

Appeals Court to Review AZ Ballot-Collection Law

A federal appeals court voted on Wednesday to review a ruling that blocked Arizona law that made collection of early ballots a felony.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a panel of 11 judges to revisit the case six days ahead of the election. The panel is planning an expedited hearing, according to a court spokesman.

A panel of three judges on Friday rejected an effort by Democratic parties and voters to block the law. The law, they allege, violates the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution because it makes it more difficult for minorities to cast their votes.

Of the 27 active 9th Circuit judges, 25 participated in the vote to revisit the case. Two of the court’s judges were opposed to rehearing the case.

The law prohibits certain groups from collecting ballots from voters and delivering them to election offices.

Judge Stephen Reinhardt said the issue was a matter of “extraordinary importance involving the suppression of minority voters.” Reinhardt added that many states have recently enacted legislation that makes it more difficult for minorities to vote.

“Not one case of voter fraud has been cited to the district court or this court by Arizona,” he said.

Reinhardt was doubtful that the 11-judge panel would block the law.

Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain wrote that the court was making a mistake by voting to rehear the case. He said there were “no good reasons” to “take this case en banc six days before the election.”

Four other judges signed on to the comments made by O’Scannlain.

The Republican-led Arizona Legislature enacted the law, House Bill 2023, early this year. Governor Doug Ducey said law protects the integrity of elections and helps fight voter fraud.

Both Republicans and Democrats have used ballot collection to improve voter turnout during elections by going door-to-door to ask voters if they have mailed in their ballots.