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Case Name Arizona Democratic Party v. Hobbs VR-AZ-0057
Docket / Court 2:20-cv-01143 ( D. Ariz. )
State/Territory Arizona
Case Type(s) Election/Voting Rights
Special Collection COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
Healthy Elections COVID litigation tracker
Case Summary
COVID-19 Summary: This lawsuit, initially tracked by being tracked by the Stanford/MIT Healthy Elections Project, was filed on June 10, 2020 by the Arizona Democratic Party, the Democratic National Committee, and the Democratic ... read more >
COVID-19 Summary: This lawsuit, initially tracked by being tracked by the Stanford/MIT Healthy Elections Project, was filed on June 10, 2020 by the Arizona Democratic Party, the Democratic National Committee, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee seeking a modification of Arizona's election procedures for unsigned mail-in ballots. On September 20, 2020, the district court granted the plaintiffs a preliminary and permanent injunction and the defendants appealed. However, on October 6, 2020, the Ninth Circuit stayed the injunction, pending the outcome of the appeal.


This case was about the State of Arizona's policy concerning mail-in ballots without a signature. According to state law, mail-in ballots missing a signature must be corrected by the voter by 7 p.m. on voting day. This policy differed from the state's policy regarding mail-in ballots with a signature that does not match the voter's registration record. When a mail-in ballot signature does not match, the voter was afforded five days to correct the signature.

The plaintiffs in this case, the Arizona Democratic Party, the Democratic National Committee, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee argued that this five-day allowance should be extended to mail-in ballots with no signature. The defendants claimed that the difference between the two policies was reasonable, since election officials could mistakenly identify valid signatures as mismatched. The plaintiffs filed their complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona on June 10, 2020. They sued the Arizona Secretary of State and the county recorders of each of Arizona's counties. The plaintiffs argued that the state's policy regarding mail-in ballots with no signature violated the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause and Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The plaintiffs argued that the lack of a cure period for unsigned ballots imposes a severe burden on the right to vote without serving any legitimate state interest. Because of this, the plaintiffs claim, the burden on the plaintiffs' rights imposed by the policy is not outweighed by the state's interests and is thus unconstitutional. The plaintiffs also argued that the lack of a cure period for unsigned balance would deprive some voters of their liberty interest, which was protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Plaintiffs claim that an extended cure period would safeguard against the deprivation of liberty rights without creating additional burdens on the state.

The plaintiffs requested declaratory judgment, and preliminary and permanent injunctive relief that would enjoin the defendants from requiring election officials to reject mail-in ballots with no signature until the fifth business day after the election. The case was assigned to Judge Douglas L. Rayes.

On the same day the plaintiffs' filed their complaint, they also moved for a preliminary injunction. On June 23, 2020, the court granted the plaintiffs' request to consolidate the hearing on their preliminary injunction motion with the final trial on the merits. This hearing was held on August 18, 2020.

On September 10, 2020, Judge Rayes granted the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary and permanent injunction. 485 F.Supp.3d 1073. On the plaintiffs' first claim that the defendants' policies violated the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause's protection of the right to vote, the court found that the burden on voters created by the state's policy, in the aggregate, would prevent or deter otherwise eligible citizens from voting. The court concluded that the defendants' policies failed to withstand even the most deferential level of scrutiny because the discrepancy between the policy for ballots with mismatched signatures and ballots with no signatures served no legitimate state interest, while burdening the rights of the plaintiffs.

The court also ruled in favor of the plaintiffs on their second claim that the state's policy violated their rights under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The court found that the plaintiffs had a liberty interest in having their ballots counted and that this interest is affected by the policy. While the court found the risk that an individual's ballot would be rejected for a missing signature was relatively low, the state's interest in maintaining its election day deadline for curing unsigned signatures lacked justification.

The court directed the defendants to allow voters who are determined to have submitted a ballot without a signature to have the opportunity to correct the missing signature until 5:00 p.m. on the fifth business day after a primary, general, or special election that includes a federal office or the third business day after any other election. On September 10, the same day that the district court ruled for the plaintiffs, the defendants appealed the injunction to the Ninth Circuit and filed emergency motions for a stay of the district court's injunction pending the appeal. On October 6, 2020, the Ninth Circuit granted the defendants' emergency motions for a stay. 976 F.3d 1081.

The Ninth Circuit found that the defendants were likely to succeed on the merits of the appeal, since the burden that the state imposed was minimal on those seeking to exercise their right to vote. The court found that since all ballots must have a deadline, Arizona choosing to make the deadline Election Day itself to facilitate an orderly election was reasonable. The also court found Arizona's explanation of the differences between the policy for mismatched signatures and missing signatures to be reasonable.

There have been no further docket entries, as of April 2, 2021.

Nicholas Gillan - 03/26/2021


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process: Procedural Due Process
Equal Protection
Freedom of speech/association
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief denied
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Voting
Election administration
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983
Defendant(s) Arizona Secretary of State
County Recorders for All Arizona Counties
Plaintiff Description The Arizona Democratic Party, the Democratic National Committee; and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee
Class action status sought No
Class action status outcome Not sought
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Filed 06/10/2020
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  Ariz. Democratic Party v. Hobbs
Stanford-MIT Healthy Elections Project
Date: Sep. 13, 2020
By: COVID-Related Election Litigation Tracker
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Court Docket(s)
D. Ariz.
09/18/2020
2:20-cv-01143-DLR
VR-AZ-0057-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
D. Ariz.
06/10/2020
Complaint [ECF# 1]
VR-AZ-0057-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Ariz.
09/10/2020
Order [ECF# 114] (485 F.Supp.3d 1073)
VR-AZ-0057-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Ariz.
09/10/2020
State's Notice of Appeal [ECF# 116]
VR-AZ-0057-0004.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Ariz.
09/18/2020
Order [ECF# 125] (2020 WL 6555219)
VR-AZ-0057-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
U.S. Court of Appeals
10/06/2020
Order (976 F.3d 1081)
VR-AZ-0057-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
show all people docs
Judges Christen, Morgan (Ninth Circuit) show/hide docs
VR-AZ-0057-0005
Rawlinson, Johnnie B. (D. Nev., Ninth Circuit) show/hide docs
VR-AZ-0057-0005
Rayes, Douglas Leroy (D. Ariz.) show/hide docs
VR-AZ-0057-0002 | VR-AZ-0057-0003 | VR-AZ-0057-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Boehm, Joshua (Arizona) show/hide docs
VR-AZ-0057-0001 | VR-AZ-0057-9000
Danneman, Alexis Elizabeth (Arizona) show/hide docs
VR-AZ-0057-0001 | VR-AZ-0057-9000
Elias, Marc Erik (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
VR-AZ-0057-9000
Glickman, Ariel Brynne (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
VR-AZ-0057-9000
Hamilton, Kevin J. (Washington) show/hide docs
VR-AZ-0057-9000
Schirack, Sarah Langberg (Alaska) show/hide docs
VR-AZ-0057-9000
Stafford, William B (Washington) show/hide docs
VR-AZ-0057-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Angle, Kenneth Andrew (Arizona) show/hide docs
VR-AZ-0057-9000
Basile, Thomas (Arizona) show/hide docs
VR-AZ-0057-9000
Branco, Joseph James (Arizona) show/hide docs
VR-AZ-0057-9000
Brnovich, Mark (Arizona) show/hide docs
VR-AZ-0057-0004
Cameron, Craig Charles (Arizona) show/hide docs
VR-AZ-0057-9000
Catlett, Michael (Arizona) show/hide docs
VR-AZ-0057-0004 | VR-AZ-0057-9000
Dalton, Jefferson R (Arizona) show/hide docs
VR-AZ-0057-9000
Desai, Roopali H. (Arizona) show/hide docs
VR-AZ-0057-9000
Dooley, Ryan Norton (Arizona) show/hide docs
VR-AZ-0057-9000
Ensign, Drew Curtis (Arizona) show/hide docs
VR-AZ-0057-0004 | VR-AZ-0057-9000
Gaona, D. Andrew (Arizona) show/hide docs
VR-AZ-0057-9000
Hanson, Britt Wesley (Arizona) show/hide docs
VR-AZ-0057-9000
Haws, Jeffrey Blane (Arizona) show/hide docs
VR-AZ-0057-9000
Hunley, Kimberly Janiece (Arizona) show/hide docs
VR-AZ-0057-9000
Jurkowitz, Daniel S. (Arizona) show/hide docs
VR-AZ-0057-9000
Kanefield, Joseph Andrew (Arizona) show/hide docs
VR-AZ-0057-0004
Kerekes, William J. (Arizona) show/hide docs
VR-AZ-0057-9000
Langhofer, Kory A (Arizona) show/hide docs
VR-AZ-0057-9000
LaRue, Joseph Eugene (Arizona) show/hide docs
VR-AZ-0057-9000
Makar, Robert John (Arizona) show/hide docs
VR-AZ-0057-0004 | VR-AZ-0057-9000
McCarthy, Thomas R. (Virginia) show/hide docs
VR-AZ-0057-9000
Moore, Jason Stanley (Arizona) show/hide docs
VR-AZ-0057-9000
Napolitano, Anthony R. (Arizona) show/hide docs
VR-AZ-0057-0004 | VR-AZ-0057-9000
Norris, Cameron T. (Virginia) show/hide docs
VR-AZ-0057-9000
Roberts, Christine Joyce (Arizona) show/hide docs
VR-AZ-0057-9000
Roysden, Brunn Wall III (Arizona) show/hide docs
VR-AZ-0057-0004
Stoxen, Thomas M (Arizona) show/hide docs
VR-AZ-0057-9000
Strawbridge, Patrick (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
VR-AZ-0057-9000
Winkeler, Rose Marie (Arizona) show/hide docs
VR-AZ-0057-9000
Wright, Jennifer (Arizona) show/hide docs
VR-AZ-0057-0004 | VR-AZ-0057-9000
Yost, Kristen M. (Arizona) show/hide docs
VR-AZ-0057-9000
Young, Joseph D. (Arizona) show/hide docs
VR-AZ-0057-9000

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