“Neither law responds to any genuine shortcoming in Arizona’s election system or furthers any valid state interest. Rather, the laws reflect baseless accusations of improprieties in the 2020 general election,” the lawsuit reads.

What You Need to Know

  • A new federal lawsuit is challenging recent restrictions to early voting in Arizona.
  • Mayer Brown attorneys are behind the complaint, as are lawyers with with Quarles & Brady and the group Free Speech for People.
  • It's the latest legal challenge to new voting restrictions enacted after the 2020 election.

Mayer Brown is backing a new lawsuit against Arizona officials over recent state restrictions on early voting, alleging the laws will make it harder for residents of color to vote.

The federal lawsuit, announced Tuesday and not yet docketed as of publication, features several attorneys from Mayer Brown as well as lawyers with Quarles & Brady and the group Free Speech for People.

The complaint is filed on behalf of several groups: Mi Familia Vota, Arizona Coalition for Change, Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA) and Chispa Arizona.

The lawsuit targets two recent actions from the state Legislature: One purging Arizona voters from the state’s permanent early voting list if they don’t use mail-in ballots for two consecutive election cycles, and another requiring voters to “cure” early ballots that might have inconsistent signatures by 7 p.m. on Election Day.

The complaint alleges that both laws “violate the right of all Arizonans to vote,” and breach the First and 14th Amendments. “Neither law responds to any genuine shortcoming in Arizona’s election system or furthers any valid state interest. Rather, the laws reflect baseless accusations of improprieties in the 2020 general election,” the filing reads.

The plaintiffs claim the laws will “have a severe and disproportionate impact on voters of color in Arizona, especially Native American, Latino, and Black voters,” and that effect was “intentional.”

“It is no coincidence that the Arizona legislature enacted these changes only after an election in which (1) for the first time in recent memory, the presidential candidate preferred by Arizona voters of color won; and (2) voters of color increasingly used early voting—the target of the new laws—to exercise their right to vote,” the complaint reads.

The complaint also quotes an opinion piece in the Washington Post by Arizona Secretary of State Kate Hobbs, in which Hobbs said many voting restrictions being considered by the Republican-controlled Arizona Legislature “are designed to depress turnout of minority and lower-income voters.” Hobbs, a Democrat and one of the defendants in the lawsuit, is challenging Republican Gov. Doug Ducey in the 2022 election.

The plaintiff groups in the lawsuit allege they will be negatively affected by the new voting restrictions, as they’ll have to divert resources from other activities in order to walk voters through the new laws.

“Arizona election officials have stated that there has been no incident of widespread voter fraud in connection with Arizona’s vote-by-mail system in its 30-year history, and that the 2020 elections were successful,” Courtney Hostetler, senior counsel for Free Speech For People, said in a statement. “These laws will not prevent non-existent fraud; they will, however, make voting less accessible, particularly for voters of color in Arizona. This case will further our goal of securing free and fair elections for Arizona voters by ensuring that mail-in ballots, the preferred method of voting by the vast majority of Arizona voters, is freely and fairly accessible to all voters, regardless of race, ethnicity, or access to election offices.”

The complaint announced Tuesday features Mayer Brown partners Lee Rubin, Dan Fenske, counsels Gary Isaac and Jed Glickstein, and associate Rachel Lamorte.

At least 31 lawsuits against voting restrictions have been filed in 11 states so far this year, according to a tracker from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. Nine of those new lawsuits are against voting laws in Georgia, including a challenge from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year narrowed the scope of the Voting Rights Act in a 6-3 ruling, in which the conservative justices voted to uphold a pair of Arizona voting laws alleged to discriminate against minority voters.

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Reprinted with permission from the August 17, 2021 edition of The National Law Journal © 2021 ALM Properties, Inc. All rights reserved. Further duplication without permission is prohibited.