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Judge rules in favor of vulnerable Arizona voters

Posted at 8:00 PM, Oct 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-06 01:30:26-04

The Arizona Superior Court has ruled that Special Election boards may continue to assist voters through video-conferencing in cases when they are disabled or too sick to leave a hospital, long-term care facility, or nursing home.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich's office had been fighting this action citing concerns of potential voter fraud.

Court documents state "this election case involves a dispute between, on one side, the Maricopa County Recorder and Secretary of State, and on the other, the Governor and the Attorney General, over the use of video assistance for certain disabled voters during the COVID-19 pandemic."

Under Arizona law, a voter who could not go to the polls because of an illness or disability was entitled to vote with the help of a Special Elections Board, and get help with filling out the ballot. The County Recorder appoints these bi-partisan two-person boards.

The County Recorder and Secretary of State have said that these special election board members can help disabled voters through a video meeting to prevent unnecessary COVID-19 exposure during the pandemic. The Governor and Attorney General's position is that voting by video violates state law.

In previous elections, members of this board have been allowed to go to the disabled or ill voter in person and help them fill out the ballot. Now due to COVID-19 restrictions, access to nursing homes, hospitals, and long-term care facilities is not as simple. Many will not allow outside visitors in. To solve this issue, the Secretary of State's office issued guidance stating the special election boards could use video meetings in these extreme cases.

The Attorney General's office has argued that the County Recorder has no legal authority to change how elections function, or how special election boards are to function. He also cites the statute states that the 'interaction between the special election board and voter must be in-person.

In his ruling, Judge Randall Warner also notes, "but the County Recorder has a duty- as does everyone involved in the election process-- to ensure a voter's disability does not prevent them from voting. He states that federal law requires reasonable modifications.

In a statement, County Recorder Adrian Fontes said, "This is a win for accessibility. We will continue to provide this option to the most vulnerable population of Maricopa County voters when necessary, ensuring compliance with all applicable law.

ABC15 is working to get a statement from the Arizona Attorney General's office.