PHOENIX — An Arizona judge on Monday declined a request by the state Republican Party to block most mail ballots for the 2022 election, preserving the voting method used by the overwhelming majority of voters.
Mohave County Superior Court Judge Lee Jantzen ruled that nothing in the Arizona Constitution prohibits the Legislature from allowing citizens to vote by mail.
The case is the latest piece of a multi-pronged effort by the Arizona Republican Party and its firebrand chair, Kelli Ward, to roll back a system of no-excuse absentee voting that the GOP-controlled Legislature has built since 1991.
They’ve pushed to require nearly everyone to cast a ballot in person on Election Day as former President Donald Trump repeats the lie that he lost the 2020 election because of fraud linked to mail ballots in Arizona and other battleground states.
Lawyers for state and county election officials as well as the Arizona Democratic Party said the vote-by-mail laws have plenty of secrecy safeguards built-in. The judge, appointed by former Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, agreed.
“The laws are far from perfect and nobody anticipated thirty years ago that approximately 90 percent of Arizona voters would vote by mail-in ballot during a pandemic, but these laws are NOT in violation of the Arizona Constitution,” Judge Jantzen wrote.
Arizona is among the states with the highest levels of mail voting, a system that has grown overwhelmingly popular with voters from both parties as well as independents.
Striking down those laws would have had major implications for the 2022 election in Arizona, which includes one of the handful of races that will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate.
Ward and the state GOP originally filed their lawsuit directly with the Arizona Supreme Court earlier this year, a highly unusual step, but the justices said it should go through a trial court first and they would only consider it on appeal.
They refiled the case last month in Mohave County, the most conservative county in the state, where Trump got 75% of the vote in 2020.
Arizonans will go to the polls this November for the midterm elections. Here's everything you need to know leading up to election night.