A judge has ruled that Arizona's legislature is within its constitutional rights to allow "no-excuse" mail-in ballots, denying the state GOP's legal challenge ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.
Mojave County Superior Court Judge Lee Jantzen ruled against the Arizona GOP and its chair, Dr. Kelli Ward, in support of a 1991 law that permits no-excuse mail-in ballots.
No-excuse mail-in ballots "are not inapposite of the intentions of the framers of the Constitution," he added.
The Arizona GOP signalled their intention to "explore their next steps" following the ruling, including to appeal it in a higher court.
The Arizona GOP said it seeks to restore mail-in ballots for the "sick, elderly, and other absentee voters" to ensure they have the constitutionally guaranteed protection of election officials safeguarding their votes from "ballot traffickers."
"We are sorry that the most vulnerable voters of Arizona will not receive the protections to which they are constitutionally entitled if this ruling stands—people who truly cannot make it to the polls versus those who find convenience voting in the comfort of their homes," said Alex Kolodin, the attorney representing the case.
The Arizona GOP argues that a lack of chain of custody "when a voter votes by mail under our current system" exposes the election system to weakness. They also argue that there is no possible way to ensure the secrecy of a ballot cast by mail.
Ballot secrecy is a key pillar of the state's mail-in ballot laws, which Jantzen noted in his written ruling.
The language of the state constitution does not prohibit mail-in ballots yet does allow new laws concerning voting to be passed as long as secrecy in voting is preserved, Jantzen wrote.
He noted that mail-in voting began in Arizona in 1918 "to allow people that could not get to the polls, mostly military people, an opportunity to vote."
"These laws mandated the mail-in voter keep his ballot private, so the legislature had the right to write election laws in 1918 that maintained secrecy, and they did so," Jantzen wrote.
Mail-in ballots must be folded and sealed in an envelope, Jantzen noted, along with an affidavit, in a way "so as to conceal the vote." They are then either delivered, mailed, or deposited by the voter or the voter's agent "at any polling place in the county."