CASE SUMMARY

In early 2016, several Arizona voters and organizations filed a federal lawsuit against the Arizona Secretary of State and other state election officials, alleging that several of Arizona's election laws and regulations are racially discriminatory in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution. The plaintiffs claims ultimately centered around two provisions: (1) Arizona's out-of-precinct regulation providing that provisional ballots cast in person on Election day, but outside of that voter's designated precinct, not be counted, and (2) Arizona's then recently enacted ballot collection law, H.B. 2023, which makes it a felony for anyone other than the voter to possess that voter's early mail ballot, unless the possessor falls into certain statutory exceptions. The plaintiffs claim that these rules impose "onerous burdens" on Arizona citizens' right to vote that disproportionately impact minority voters in the state such that it is more likely their votes will not be counted in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, the 1st Amendment, and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. Additionally, the plaintiffs allege that Arizona's ballot collection law was enacted with a discriminatory intent in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the 15th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The plaintiffs are seeking a declaratory judgment that the challenged election practices are unlawful and a permanent injunction requiring the defendants to count out-of-precinct provisional ballots and barring them from enforcing the ballot collection law.

On May 8, 2018, the U.S. District Court in Arizona ruled in favor of the Defendants on all claims, finding that the plaintiffs had failed to show that the challenged election practices "severely and unjustifiably" burdened voting and associational rights, disparately impacted minority voters such that they have less opportunity to participate in the political process than non-minority voters, or that the state was motivated by a discriminatory intent when it enacted H.B. 2023. On May 9, 2018, the plaintiffs appealed the district court's ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

On September 12, 2018, a Ninth Circuit three-judge panel affirmed the lower court's ruling, finding that the district court did not err in their conclusions as to the motivations behind H.B. 2023 and the effects of both election practices on minority voters. However, on January 2, 2019, a majority of non-recused Ninth Circuit judges voted to rehear the case en banc and invalidated the decision of the three-judge panel. On January 27, 2020, the en banc court reversed the district court's decision and held both of Arizona's challenged election practices were unlawful. The court found that the plaintiffs had sufficiently shown that Arizona's policy of wholly discarding, rather than counting or partially counting, out-of-precinct ballots, and H.B. 2023's criminalization of collecting another person's ballot, had a discriminatory impact on Arizona minority voters in violation of the "results test" under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Second, the court found that H.B. 2023, based on the totality of circumstances, was enacted with a discriminatory intent in violation of the "intent test" under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, and that it further violated the 15th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

On April 27, 2020, the defendants appealed the Ninth Circuit's decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. Oral arguments were held on March 2, 2021.

CASE LIBRARY

U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona - No. 2:16-CV-01065 [formerly Feldman v. Arizona Secretary of State's Office]

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit- No. 16-16698 [first interlocutory appeal]

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit- No. 16-16865 [second interlocutory appeal]

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit - No. 18-15845 [formerly DNC v. Hobbs]

U.S. Supreme Court - No. 19-1257 [consolidated with No. 19-1258]