Arizona Gets Count-as-You-Go Elections: Ballots & Boundaries

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Ballot-counting could go faster in Arizona, though not in time for the Aug. 2 primary.

A law (S.B. 1362) that takes effect Sept. 24 aims to speed up the count—and remove a little uncertainty in close races—by letting counties immediately tabulate mail-in ballots hand-delivered to the polls by voters with proper ID.

Counties can choose to offer the alternative to a system that requires election officials to wait before verifying signatures and tallying the dropped-off ballots.

Each state decides how and when absentee and mail-in ballots can be processed and counted, with 38 states allowing some form of preparation before Election Day. The later the start, the longer it takes to report final outcomes—and delays can sow voter distrust and misinformation.

In Michigan, where no absentee ballots can be processed until Election Day, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) asked the Legislature to allow early processing. Voters “deserve election results on election night,” said Benson. The Republican-led Legislature didn’t budge.

Wisconsin got halfway to early ballot processing. The Assembly approved changes, then the Senate balked. And in Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) vetoed a bill to allow absentee ballot processing ahead of Election Day. — Brenna Goth

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MICHIGAN: HISTORIC FIRST
For the first time in Michigan history, ballots in Dearborn (population 110,000) will be printed in Arabic, starting with the Aug. 2 primary.

Dearborn has one of the nation’s highest concentrations of residents of Arabic descent. The federal Voting Rights Act doesn’t specifically require alternative-language ballots for Arab-speaking communities, so a couple local governments in the Detroit area passed their own resolutions.

“We encourage Dearborn residents to vote in the language they are most comfortable, and to embrace the universal language of democracy,” Abdullah Hammoud, Dearborn’s first Arab and Muslim mayor, said in a statement. — Alex Ebert

ARIZONA: ‘TEXTBOOK VIOLATION’
Arizona’s new voter proof-of-citizenship law is in limbo after the US Department of Justice sued to block it. The US District Court for the District of Arizona will decide if the law (H.B. 2492) flouts the National Voter Registration Act and blocks eligible people from voting under its requirements.

The law applies to “federal-only” voters who register to vote using a federal form instead of providing the citizenship documents needed to participate in Arizona’s state elections. It’s to take effect in January 2023.

Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, called it a “textbook violation” of federal protections. When he signed the law, Gov. Doug Ducey (R) described it as a “balanced approach” to protecting elections. — Brenna Goth

NORTH CAROLINA: PANDORA’S BOX
The election law world went spiraling when the US Supreme Court accepted for review North Carolina’s challenge to a 14-seat congressional map adopted by a state court.

That’s because the GOP-controlled state Legislature’s lawsuit is based on an “Independent State Legislature” theory that would make state legislators the ultimate authority on rules governing federal elections and congressional maps.

Critics say the case sets up the US Supreme Court to grant state legislatures unprecedented power in federal election administration, potentially emboldening the legislatures to change the results of presidential elections, to alter rules regarding ballot access, and to abolish redistricting commissions. — Alex Ebert

Redistricting

SOUTH CAROLINA: NOT OVER YET
South Carolina already has held its primaries and a runoff, but the state Legislature still must deal with claims it enacted congressional lines that discriminate against Black voters.

The South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP maintains Republicans drew three districts (the 1st, 2nd, and 5th) that intentionally dilute Black voting power.

A federal court rejected arguments that the NAACP didn’t have standing to bring the case, and that the plaintiffs were actually alleging partisan gerrymandering, which can’t be brought to federal court. Then the court followed up by ordering state Senate Republicans to produce more records, sit for depositions and search some legislators’ private email accounts for communications that could help plaintiffs argue their racial discrimination claims. — Alex Ebert

Caught Our Eye

  • Election deniers are spreading misinformation nationwide. Here are four things to know. (NPR.org)
  • Abortion ruling puts spotlight on gerrymandered legislatures. (The Associated Press)

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To contact the reporters on this story: Brenna Goth in Phoenix at bgoth@bloomberglaw.com; Alex Ebert in Madison, Wisconsin at aebert@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tina May at tmay@bloomberglaw.com

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