Federal judge rules against Democratic challenge to Arizona voter registration deadline

Posted at 8:21 PM, Nov 03, 2016

A federal judge on Thursday rejected a Democratic effort that would have allowed more than 2,000 Arizonans who registered a day late for the Nov. 8 election to vote.

U.S. District Judge Steven Logan's ruling says the state and national Democratic parties would likely have prevailed but waited too long to go to court. The lawsuit sought an order forcing Republican Secretary of State Michele Reagan to add the voters to the rolls.

Reagan refused to extend the Oct. 10 voter registration deadline even though it fell on Columbus Day. The Democrats noted there's no mail service and state motor vehicle offices were closed that day. The Democrats sued on Oct. 19, and Logan heard arguments two days later.

Logan's ruling said that with early voting well underway and polling lists finalized it was too late to order more voters added.

"The Court is sympathetic to the plight of individual voters who were unable to register in time to vote in the general election, and had this action been filed within a reasonable time before the voter registration deadline, a different outcome would have likely resulted," Logan wrote.

The judge also had some choice words for Reagan, noting that Arizona had managed to mess up by setting a voter registration deadline that conflicted with a holiday.

"The Court also observes the possibility that the Secretary set the deadlines this year without first consulting a calendar, and that if she had exercised her discretion (or her rulemaking authority) from the onset, the predicament faced here could have been avoided," Logan wrote.

Reagan had argued that state law did not allow her to extend the voter registration deadline. Former Secretary of State Ken Bennett moved the registration cutoff by one day in 2012, but Reagan spokesman Matt Roberts said previously that Reagan doesn't believe it's legal to do so. 

Moving the date also shortens the time recorders have to process registration forms and how long voters have early ballots.