'October Surprise': US District Judge Rules AZ Must Extend Voter Registration by Almost 3 Weeks

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

 

Monday night was the eve of the sole debate for the Special Election to permanently fill the late Sen. John McCain’s seat, now occupied by appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R), a closely-watched race across the nation which I wrote about a few days back. But Monday was also when news broke on a striking change via the federal courts in the way the general election – now less than a month away – will be administered in the state of Arizona: specifically, when the cut-off is for voters to register to participate in it.

The Arizona Capitol Times reported on what it calls an “October surprise”:

In an October surprise, a federal judge extended Arizona’s voter registration deadline from Oct. 5 to Oct. 23.

The news came with mere hours of today’s original deadline for Arizonans to register or update their registration. The court’s ruling gives Arizonans another 18 days to register.

Progressive groups Mi Familia Vota and Arizona Coalition for Change sued Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, in a last-ditch effort to postpone Arizona’s Oct. 5 voter registration deadline, citing difficulties registering voters during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In his ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Steven Logan told Hobb’s office to direct county recorders to accept all voter registrations received by 5 p.m. on Oct. 23.

Logan agreed that COVID-19 and travel restrictions put in place by Gov. Doug Ducey made it difficult for the plaintiffs and others to fulfill their goal of getting more people to register to vote.

As the Capitol Times noted, Arizona’s previous deadline for citizens to register to vote in the November 3rd election was yesterday, October 5th. Early voting in the Grand Canyon state begins Wednesday.

The Arizona Republic shared a copy of the judge’s order, which extends the state’s voter registration deadline by almost three weeks:

The background on the case (see the PDF above) shows that the activist groups claimed that enforcing the current deadline of October 5th would “burden” the plaintiffs’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights, and sought to have the deadline extended even further — to October 27th:

Plaintiffs allege that if Defendant were to enforce the Arizona Voter Registration Deadline of October 5, 2020, their First and Fourteenth Amendment Rights would be burdened. (Doc. 1 at 17) They seek an extension of the voter registration deadline to October 27, 2020.

The Secretary of State’s office responded to the ruling, saying that Sec. Hobbs will not appeal the court order, but encourages “Arizonans to update or register as soon as possible, as a further court ruling remains possible.”

Indeed, the buck doesn’t stop there. Late Monday, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) and the Republican National Committee (RNC) swiftly filed an appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on the ruling, according to Capitol Times reporter Dillon Rosenblatt:

The Arizona GOP responded, as well, writing on their Twitter account late Monday:

An Obama judge is disregarding well-settled Supreme Court precedents, creating substantial confusion and new burdens for voters and election officials. Republicans will continue to outpace Democrats at registering new voters while this misguided ruling is appealed.

Judicial “surprises” like this only underline the importance of getting more, conservative judges on the bench, something Senate Majority Leader McConnell has been dedicated to over the past four years. And ongoing attacks from leftist, judicial activists make the confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett by the Upper House to the Supreme Court that much more urgent.