The Navajo Nation’s lawsuit over Arizona’s ballot-by-mail deadline was dismissed

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Update:

  • A lawsuit by four members of the Navajo Nation seeking to shorten Arizona’s mail-in ballot deadline ahead of the 2020 election has been dismissed.
  • On January 6, 2021, an Arizona federal court dismissed the lawsuit filed in August 2020 against Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs. No reason was given for the rejection.
  • The lawsuit was filed in response to the US Postal Service’s recommendation that a mail-in ballot be mailed at least 15 days before Election Day to ensure it can be returned in time to meet state deadlines.
  • Plaintiffs argued this required everyone to have equal access to the postal service, which is not the case, particularly at the height of the pandemic.
  • Members of the Navajo Nation argued that “Hundreds of thousands of rural Americans have a non-standard mail service that is burdened with a variety of service limitations, including irregular or unreliable service, no delivery to places of residence, excessive distances from post offices or other limited mail providers.” Opening hours operation among other things.”

08/27/2020)

Four members of the Navajo Nation have filed a lawsuit to shorten Arizona’s deadline for voting by mail.

Plaintiffs have named Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs as a defendant and allege that the state’s requirement that ballots mailed by 7:00 p.m. on Election Day to be counted violates their constitutional rights.

The Navajo Nation is a federally recognized tribe that maintains a “government-to-government relationship” with the United States, according to the lawsuit.

The Navajo Nation Reservation, which consists of more than 13 million acres, spans three counties in Arizona and 13 counties in Utah and New Mexico, the lawsuit says. More than 100,000 people live on the Arizona portion, of which about 67,000 are of voting age.

The plaintiffs are concerned about recent actions by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, which appear to have caused delays in mail processing.

What makes it even more difficult is that coronavirus pandemic, which led to an “extraordinary increase in postal votes”, claim the plaintiffs. Mail voting rose 1,000% during the Iowa primary and nearly 500% in South Dakota.

According to the plaintiffs, the U.S. Postal Service recommends requesting a mail-in ballot at least 15 days before Election Day to ensure it can be returned in a timely manner to meet state deadlines.

However, they argue, this assumes that everyone has equal access to the postal service, which is not the case.

Members of the Navajo Nation say, “Hundreds of thousands of rural Americans have a non-standard mail service that is burdened with a variety of service limitations, including irregular or unreliable service, no delivery to residential locations, excessive distances from post offices or other postal providers with restricted hours of operation among other things.”

Additionally, plaintiffs say tribal members living on the Arizona portion of the Navajo Nation Reservation have even more limited access than “non-Indian” Arizona voters because there is no standard mail service and non-standard addresses.

U.S. Postal Service services are limited in Indian land due to the poor quality of road systems on Indian reservations and many of the roads are unnamed,” the lawsuit reads. “A significant number of these reservation residents do not have traditional street addresses.

Members of the Navajo Nation say their 14th Amendment rights are being violated because the defendant has “no legitimate, non-racial reason” for refusing mail-in ballots from tribesmen postmarked on or before Election Day.

They also claim that their rights under the Arizona Constitution are violated by the state’s actions to deny them equal elections by “arbitrarily refusing to count their mailed ballots,” which are postmarked on or before Election Day.

The Voting Rights Act 1965 provides that “No electoral qualification or requirement for voting, or standards, practices or procedures, shall be imposed or applied by any State or political subdivision in any manner which results in a refusal or [abridgment] the right of every citizen of the United States to vote on the basis of race or color,” the lawsuit states.

Plaintiffs allege that Arizona’s failure to count their properly stamped ballots denies members of the state-recognized tribe the same rights as others to participate in the political process.

Defendant Hobbs defended their positionwho, according to Tucson.com, says she is powerless to make changes.

The deadline is set by state law,” Hobbs said, adding that that’s why she’s tried to explain voters’ options and deadlines, particularly in areas without a “consistent postal service.”

According to The Hill, the Supreme Court has largely on the States side impose voting restrictions.

Plaintiffs are asking the court to declare that the defendant’s failure to count mailed ballots mailed by tribal members on reservation and postmarked on or before Election Day violates the 14th Amendment, the Voting Rights Act and the Arizona Constitution .

Specifically, with respect to the upcoming presidential election, Plaintiffs are asking the Court to order the Defendant to count absentee ballots postmarked by Election Day and received on or before November 13.

They are also seeking an order that the defendant count mail-in ballots cast by tribesmen living on reservations so long as the ballots were postmarked on or before Election Day for all future elections.

In addition, they are seeking attorneys’ fees, court costs, and any additional relief the court deems appropriate.

Do you think Arizona’s mail-in ballot count deadline should be extended? Let us know in the comments.

The plaintiffs are represented by Michael J. Novotny of Big Fire Law & Policy Group LLP.

the Navajo Nation Vote By Mail Deadline Action is Darlene Yazzie et al. v. Katie Hobbs, in her official capacity as Secretary of State for the State of ArizonaCase No. 3:20-cv-08222-GMS, in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona.



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