PHOENIX — The head of the Arizona Republican Party is claiming that emergency voting procedures used in some counties are illegal.
That could lead to a lawsuit if Republicans lose some elections by a narrow margin.
In a letter Tuesday to all county recorders, Jonathan Lines said a procedure being used in Maricopa and Pima counties illegally allows people to vote in person on the Saturday and the Monday ahead of the election. Lines said that violates a law saying all in-person voting has to be done by the Friday before Election Day.
But Pima County Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez and Andrian Fontes, her Maricopa County counterpart, point out that the law also permits counties to allow voting up until 5 p.m. Monday “as the result of any emergency” that occurs after the 5 p.m. Friday deadline. More to the point, both said, there is no actual definition of what constitutes an “emergency.”
“Are we going to be the one that’s judge and jury that meets this pigeonhole?” Rodriguez asked.
“We don’t know what an emergency is,” she continued. “If the voters say ‘it’s emergency voting,’ we open it up and they vote.”
Fontes agreed, saying the statute does not require that he come up with a definition of what is an “emergency.”
What the law does say is that an “emergency” means “any unforeseen circumstances that would prevent the elector from voting at the polls.”
“The statute is about the voter’s emergency as I understand it,” Fontes said. “If the voter has an emergency, and they need to vote, I can let them vote.”
“I want people to vote,” added Fontes, who, like Rodriguez, is a Democrat. “I’m sure some people feel differently,” he added, suggesting a partisan tinge to Lines’ complaint.
Lines, however, views the law on emergency voting through a different lens, arguing that it is permitted only if individuals “have cited any articulable emergency,” though even his letter does not say what he believes that is.
There aren’t a lot of votes at issue.
Rodriguez said her office allowed 969 people to vote in person on Saturday and Monday on an emergency basis. Fontes put the number in his county at about 3,000.
But in a close race, whether that many ballots are counted or disqualified could determine the outcome.
Lines is demanding that county recorders who have allowed emergency voting set aside those ballots. That presumes, however, that they are not already mixed in with the hundreds of thousands of ballots cast in person Tuesday.
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