PHOENIX - Arizonans will have until Oct. 15 at 11:59 p.m. to register to vote, following a court ruling on Oct. 13.
On Oct. 5, a judge ruled the voter registration deadline to be extended from Oct. 5 to Oct. 23 because COVID-19 restrictions could have prevented voter registration efforts.
According to court documents related to the Oct. 13 ruling, two voter registration groups claim that following a state-mandated shutdown on Mar. 30 due to COVID-19, as few as 282 people were registered to vote in a week, during the months of restrictions that followed.
Since Arizona’s voter registration deadline was extended, several thousand people have registered to vote. Hobbs at first said she wasn’t going to fight the federal court-ordered extension, but later did. In her filing, Hobbs said the extension could be problematic for elections administration officials having to both process registrations and execute the elections process at the same time.
"The district court enjoined the Secretary's enforcement of the October 5, 2020 deadline prescribed in § 16-120(A), holding that it was unconstitutional as applied uring trhe COVID-19 pandemic," wrote a portion of the ruling. "The Secretary appealed, requesting a prospective stay of this injunction. We gray this stay effective two days from [Oct. 13]."
According to the court ruling, neither the Secretary of State nor Arizona's Attorney General have sought a stay that would have "required the Secretary of State to forbid those who have "already registered pursuant to the district court's order from voting," seeking a so-called prospective stay instead.
"In support of a prospective rather than retroactive stay, the Secretary maintains that a retroactive stay would be unfair and might 'cause irreparable harm to Arizona's voters and damage the public interest,'" read a portion of the ruling. The court also ruled that a retroactive stay could be problematic, as some who have registered after Oct. 5 may have already cast their ballots, since early voting has begun in Arizona.
“With the two-day grace period, what that does is two things: it does give an opportunity for folks who haven’t quite registered to get registered in the next two days by 11:59 p.m. on the 15th, and it also in the court order provides a safe harbor for those who have already registered," said election lawyer Tom Collins.
State officials respond
A spokesperson for Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich released a statement that reads:
"Arizona voters deserve certainty when it comes to the enforcement of our election laws. Unfortunately, the Secretary of State cut a deal with a New York law firm that creates further chaos."
That statement, however, was disputed by officials with the Secretary of State's Office in a statement, which reads:
"That statement is incorrect. This wasn't a 'deal.' The court issued a ruling and indicated that they didn't consider the stipulation. It's a shame that the Attorney General is so flippant with the facts."
Voters are returning ballots
Meanwhile, with just three weeks to go until Election Day, people who have already registered to vote are getting their ballots in.
According to officials with the Maricopa County Elections Department, they have already received over 85,000 early ballots that were dropped off, or votes at voting centers, setting a new record.
Erica Flores with the Maricopa County Elections Department is encouraging those who have questions about their ballots to use the resources set up to track their ballots before calling the Elections Department.