PHOENIX — Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs is asking a federal judge not to grant more time to register voters.
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Hobb’s office said the two organizations that are asking for more time have known for months that they were having problems making face-to-face contacts to sign people up. Much of their difficulty was due to the pandemic and resulting restrictions on travel and gatherings imposed by Gov. Doug Ducey, as well as social distancing requirements.
But the groups “waited a mere three business days before the (Monday, Oct. 5 voter registration) deadline to bring this lawsuit,” said Linley Wilson, Hobbs’ attorney.
She argued it is too late now to seek major changes in the process and in the registration deadline, in place for years.
Hobbs’ lawyer also told U.S. District Court Judge Steven Logan there are other flaws in the lawsuit filed on behalf of Mi Familia Vota and the Arizona Coalition for Change.
They sued only Hobbs and not the recorders of the state’s 15 counties, the people actually responsible for putting together voter registration lists.
Wilson also said that granting the request to extend the deadline until Oct. 27 would create havoc, particularly as early ballots go out on Wednesday, Oct. 7.
The judge pledged Monday to rule as soon as possible.
The lawsuit says 146,214 people registered to vote in Arizona between January and August of 2016, the last presidential election year.
By contrast, the comparable figure for this year is 62,565, said Zoe Salzman, attorney for the two groups.
Wilson, however, told the judge the more relevant figure is the number of people who are registered, regardless of when they filled out the forms.
She said the total number of active voters as of this past Thursday, the most recent data available, was 4,160,915. That’s up by more than 234,000 since the beginning of the year.
Four years ago, Wilson said, the number of people registered to vote on Oct. 1, 2016 was close to a half a million less.
All that, she said, shows Hobbs, a Democrat, has been effective in getting people registered “and that voters are not encountering significant difficulties registering to vote during the pandemic.”
Salzman disputes the claim that extending the deadline will result in a hardship on election officials, even with early ballots coming in at the same time.
She said 37 other states allow people to sign up much closer than 29 days before the election. And she said 40% of these states permit them to register and vote on the same day.