After much back and forth, a federal appeals court has handed down its decree: Voter registration in Arizona cuts off at 11:59 p.m. tomorrow.
The ruling comes after two nonprofit organizations that do voter registration drives, Mi Familia Vota and Arizona Coalition for Change, sued the Arizona Secretary of State on September 30, five days before the standard deadline to register to vote, seeking to block her from enforcing the cutoff. The groups said that COVID-19 restrictions had reduced their registration efforts sharply, and argued that the deadline restricted their First Amendment rights to engage in free speech.
On October 5, the day of the deadline, Arizona U.S. District Court Judge Steven P. Logan granted a dramatic injunction, extending the deadline for 18 days, to October 23. After Secretary of State Katie Hobbs initially said she would not appeal the decision, the Republican National Committee, which had jumped into the case, appealed to a higher court. The Arizona Attorney General's Office also jumped in to replace Hobbs.
Hobbs eventually weighed in on October 12, appealing the delayed deadline as a burden on election administrators and offering a compromise deadline. After the RNC refused to agree to a negotiated deadline of midnight this Friday, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals court weighed in and set the deadline for midnight on October 15.
In their decision, two of three judges on the appeals court said that they didn't think the nonprofits' challenge was likely to succeed because COVID-19 restrictions were driven by public health, and that extending the deadline was a burden that might affect the ability of officials to run elections on schedule.
"Third, the administrative burdens on the state imposed by an October 23 registration deadline are significant. As the Secretary noted in her brief to us, the injunction has suddenly forced the County Recorders in local election offices — some with limited staffs of only two or three people in rural counties — to process voter registrations while at the same time mailing and processing early ballots," they wrote in their decision.
The two judges decided that two days was an ample grace period for people planning to turn in their registrations to do so. In a dissenting opinion, the third judge argued that registrations accepted after the original deadline should not be counted.
What this means is that if you want to vote in this fiercely contested swing state in a historic election, your registration must be in the hands of election officials by about 36 hours from the time this article was published.
The easiest way to do this is online. If you have an Arizona driver's license or state ID card you can register here.
If you don't have the necessary ID but still meet all the requirements to vote (U.S. citizen, Arizona resident, 18 or older, had your rights restored after a felony conviction) you can register by printing out this form and delivering to the county recorder's office.
You can mail it, but it needs to be received by the office — not just placed in the mail — by midnight tomorrow. With Trump-administration caused delays and the pandemic rendering mail delivery times questionable, your best bet is to drop it off at the secure dropbox operated by the Maricopa County Recorder's office at 510 South Third Avenue.
If you're submitting the paper application, be sure to attach a copy of documents proving your citizenship, such as your passport or birth certificate. Diana Solorio, a spokesperson for the county recorder's elections division, said the office is consulting with their lawyers on how the ruling will affect the deadline to submit proof of citizenship, but it's safest to submit it with your registration now.
Solorio said that online voter registrations are usually processed within 48 hours, while paper registrations can take up two weeks. Even if your registration hasn't shown up in the system yet, you can still go fill out a provisional ballot on election day and it will be counted after being verified, she said.
Since October 6, the old deadline, the office has processed 10,600 new voter registrations. Solorio said they haven't encountered any of the burdens outlined in the ruling. Everyone's working overtime to get everything processed, but "this is pretty normal," she said.
Here's what you need to know about voting next month.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.