The Democratic National Committee (DNC) is suing the Arizona secretary of state and a gaggle of county officials over a rule in the state that automatically rejects mail-in ballots without signatures, whereas voters whose mail-in ballot signatures do not match their voter registration are given five days to remedy the situation.
The Democrats' suit, which raises alarm over not all absentee ballots being "treated equally," is just the latest move in a larger effort to expand and protect absentee voting ahead of the November general election. That campaign has rankled Republicans, who say that allowing more absentee voting than necessary sets up potential voter fraud.
The Arizona suit is backed by the Arizona Democratic Party, the DNC and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC).
"Voters who are in fact registered to vote, and who did in fact timely submit their mail ballots, will have their votes disregarded without due process," the Democrats' suit reads.
It adds later in the suit: "This will result in disenfranchisement. In recent general elections, a significant number of mail ballots have been rejected in Arizona for missing signatures."
Arizona is one of the states that has an absentee balloting system favorable to Democrats -- its no-excuse rule allows all voters to request an absentee ballot without providing a reason why they need one, which is required in many states. And Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs is a Democrat.
The suit notes that more than 2 million absentee ballots were cast in the 2016 general election, and 1.9 million voters voted absentee in 2018.
But a change in election law – in this case, allowing voters who do not sign their absentee ballots time to remedy the situation – would require sign-off by the legislature, which in Arizona is controlled by the GOP. The Democrats' suit is effectively an end-run around Republicans in the state's House and Senate aimed at securing a change in the law through the courts.
Arizona is set to be a potential battleground state in the fall presidential election, and also has three competitive U.S. House races and a "toss-up" Senate race set for November, according to The Cook Political Report.
Specifically, the suit asks that the federal district court declare "that all voters who submit a ballot without a signature must be allowed the same opportunity to cure that defect as is allowed to voters who submit a mail ballot with a signature mismatch" and for an injunction prohibiting state officials from rejecting mail-in ballots without signatures before giving voters five days to correct it.
The court has set a telephone conference in the case for June 23.