WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Wednesday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a challenge brought by Democrats against Arizona’s arbitrary deadline to cure an otherwise valid mail-in ballot that doesn’t have a signature. Many Arizonans cast their ballots by mail, which requires an affidavit “attesting that the voter personally has cast the ballot.” If the voter omits a signature on the affidavit, the state allows voters to provide the missing signature or cast a provisional ballot. However, the deadline to cure a missing signature is Election Day, despite the fact that perceived mismatched signatures can be cured up to five days following an election. In June 2020, the Democratic National Committee (DNC), Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) and Arizona Democratic Party filed a lawsuit against this arbitrary deadline, arguing that it violates the First and 14th Amendments by unduly burdening the right to vote and denying procedural due process. The U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona agreed with the plaintiffs and ordered the state to extend the deadline to cure a missing affidavit signature.
Upon appeal to the 9th Circuit, the district court’s decision was reversed. The majority of the 9th Circuit panel held that Arizona “has an important regulatory interest in reducing the administrative burden on poll workers, especially during the busy days immediately following an election. In light of the minimal burden on the voter to sign the affidavit or to correct a missing signature by election day, the State’s interest sufficiently justifies the election-day deadline.” The majority on the panel held that the rules mandating an Election Day deadline to cure missing signatures “are reasonable, nondiscriminatory regulations that impose only a minimal burden on voting rights” because voters have an adequate chance to correct their “own mistake.” In a dissent, one judge pushed back against the majority’s acceptance of the state’s inconsistent cure procedures and its argument that this law is dissimilar to recently enacted voter suppression laws because it does not “restrict the ability of voters to cast a ballot.” In response, she wrote that “the State’s refusal to provide a post-election cure period for ballots with missing signatures, consistent with the cure period it provides for other deficient ballots, disenfranchises voters after they cast their ballot as surely as laws that restrict voters from casting their ballots in the first place.”