Arizona Democratic Party et al v. Hobbs et al

Filing 114

ORDER - IT IS ORDERED that Plaintiffs' motion to preclude certain opinions of Professor Atkeson (Doc. 101 ) is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART as explained in Part II of this order. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary and permanent injunction (Doc. 2 ) is GRANTED. Defendants, their respective agents, officers, employees, and successors, and all persons acting in concert with each or any of them, must allow voters who are determined to have submitte d an early ballot (referred to in this order as a VBM ballot) in an envelope without a signature the opportunity to correct the missing signature until 5:00 p.m. on the fifth business day after a primary, general or special election that includes a federal office or the third business day after any other election. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk of the Court shall enter judgment in favor Plaintiffs and against Defendants and terminate this case. (See document for further details). Signed by Judge Douglas L Rayes on 9/10/2020. (LAD)

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Case 2:20-cv-01143-DLR Document 114 Filed 09/10/20 Page 1 of 24 1 WO 2 3 4 5 6 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 7 FOR THE DISTRICT OF ARIZONA 8 9 Arizona Democratic Party, et al., Plaintiffs, 10 11 ORDER v. 12 No. CV-20-01143-PHX-DLR Katie Hobbs, et al., 13 Defendants. 14 15 16 Plaintiffs the Arizona Democratic Party (“ADP”), the Democratic National 17 Committee (“DNC”), and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (“DSCC”) seek 18 to enjoin Arizona’s election officials from rejecting vote-by-mail (“VBM”) ballots1 in 19 unsigned envelopes without allowing non-signing voters the same five days after Election 20 Day to correct their omissions as allowed to voters whose envelopes contain perceived 21 mismatched signatures and in-person voters without proper identification. At issue are 22 Plaintiffs’ motions for a preliminary and permanent injunction (Doc. 2) and to preclude 23 certain opinions offered by Professor Lonna Atkeson, an expert retained by Intervenor- 24 Defendant the State of Arizona (“State”) (Doc. 101). 25 preliminary injunction hearing with the final bench trial on the merits pursuant to Federal 26 Rule of Civil Procedure 65(a)(2). Having considered the parties’ briefs (Docs. 2, 85, 86, 27 91, 96, 97, 101, 105), their evidence,2 and their presentations at the consolidated hearing, 28 1 2 The Court consolidated the Arizona law refers to VBM ballots as “early ballots.” A.R.S. § 16-545. The parties stipulated to the admission of Plaintiffs’ Exhibits 1-32 (Doc. 107), and Case 2:20-cv-01143-DLR Document 114 Filed 09/10/20 Page 2 of 24 1 the Court partially grants Plaintiffs’ motion to preclude and grants Plaintiffs’ motion for a 2 permanent injunction.3 3 I. Background 4 Arizona allows no-excuse VBM during the twenty-seven days before an election. 5 A.R.S. §§ 16-541, -542(C). Most voters choose this option. (Pl. Exh. 6.) VBM voters 6 must return their completed ballots in specially provided, postage-paid envelopes and sign 7 an affidavit printed on those envelopes. A.R.S. §§ 16-547, -548. Election officials 8 compare these signatures with signatures on record to verify that the ballot returned was, 9 in fact, cast by the voter to whom that ballot belongs. A.R.S. § 16-550. A ballot that cannot 10 be verified will not be counted. A.R.S. § 16-552(B). 11 Every election, officials receive some ballots in unsigned envelopes and some in 12 envelopes bearing signatures that appear not to match the signatures on those voters’ 13 registration records. Until recently, Arizona law was silent on what election officials 14 should do with such ballots, leading each county to institute its own policies. (St. Exh. 101 15 ¶ 25.) Some counties allowed voters to cure perceived mismatched signatures after 16 Election Day, others did not. (Id.) Some counties allowed voters to cure missing signatures 17 by Election Day, but no county—except Santa Cruz—allowed voters to do so after Election 18 Day. (Id.; Pl. Exh. 7 at 3.) 19 This patchwork approach changed on August 27, 2019, when the Arizona legislature 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 to the State’s Exhibits 101-114, except for paragraphs 55-62, 72-76, and 94 of State Exhibit 101 (Doc. 108), which are the subject of Plaintiffs’ motion to preclude. This order cites Plaintiffs’ exhibits as “Pl. Exh.” and the State’s exhibits as “St. Exh.” 3 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(a)(1) requires the Court to “find the facts specially and state its conclusions of law separately,” either on the record or in a separate opinion or memorandum decision. “One purpose behind Rule 52(a) is to aid the appellate court’s understanding of the basis of the trial court’s decision. This purpose is achieved if the district court’s findings are sufficient to indicate the factual basis for its ultimate conclusions.” Vance v. Am. Hawaii Cruises, Inc., 789 F.2d 790, 792 (9th Cir. 1986) (internal citations omitted). The Court has chosen to issue a written decision “in narrative form because a narrative format more fully explains the reasons behind the Court’s conclusions, which aids appellate review and provides the parties with more satisfying explanations. Any finding of fact that constitutes a conclusion of law is hereby adopted as a conclusion of law, and any conclusion of law that constitutes a finding of fact is hereby adopted as a finding of fact.” Juan Pollo Franchising, Inc. v. B & K Pollo Enters., Inc., No. EDCV 13-2010 JGB (SPx), 2015 WL 10695881, at *1 (C.D. Cal. Aug. 6, 2015). Local Rule of Civil Procedure 52.1 is suspended. -2- Case 2:20-cv-01143-DLR Document 114 Filed 09/10/20 Page 3 of 24 1 amended the election code to provide a uniform cure period for ballot envelopes with 2 perceived mismatched signatures. Arizona law now allows voters to cure perceived 3 mismatched signatures up to five business days after an election.4 A.R.S. § 16-550(A). 4 This amendment mirrors Arizona’s treatment of ballots cast in person by voters who arrive 5 at the polls without proper identification. Such voters are permitted to cast conditional 6 provisional ballots, A.R.S. § 16-579(A), which will be counted if the voter presents an 7 acceptable form of identification to the appropriate county recorder up to five business 8 days after the election. (Pl. Exh. 3 at 196.) However, Arizona’s election code does not 9 expressly address whether ballot envelopes with missing signatures may be cured. 10 Defendant Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (“Secretary”) sought to fill this 11 gap. The Secretary is Arizona’s chief election officer and required by law to prescribe in 12 the Election Procedures Manual (“EPM”) “rules to achieve and maintain the maximum 13 degree of correctness, impartiality, uniformity and efficiency on the procedures for early 14 voting and voting, and of producing, distributing, collecting, counting, tabulating and 15 storing ballots.” A.R.S. §§ 41-121, 16-452(A). To that end, the Secretary’s October 2019 16 draft EPM instructed election officials to permit voters to cure a missing signature within 17 the same post-election time frame applicable to perceived mismatched signatures. (Pl. Exh. 18 2 at 77.) 19 To become effective, the EPM must be approved by the Attorney General and 20 Governor. A.R.S. § 16-452(B). The Attorney General objected to the Secretary’s draft 21 because, in his view, Arizona law implicitly prohibits a post-election cure period for 22 missing signatures. (Pl. Exhs. 24 (attached Excel spreadsheet), 26 at 11-13; St. Exh. 113.) 23 Although the Secretary disagreed with the Attorney General’s interpretation of Arizona 24 law,5 she acquiesced to removing the language in the interest of timely issuing an updated 25 version of the EPM. (Pl. Exh. 26 at 11-13.) The finalized EPM provides: 26 27 28 4 The five-day post-election cure period applies only to elections that include a federal office; a three-day post-election cure period applies to all other elections. A.R.S. § 15-550(A). For ease, the Court describes this post-election period as lasting “up to five days” after an election. 5 This dispute over state law is immaterial. What matters is, at present, voters may not cure unsigned ballot envelopes after Election Day. -3- Case 2:20-cv-01143-DLR Document 114 Filed 09/10/20 Page 4 of 24 If the early ballot affidavit is not signed, the County Recorder shall not count the ballot. The County Recorder shall then make a reasonable and meaningful attempt to contact the voter via mail, phone, text message, and/or email, to notify the voter the affidavit was not signed and explain to the voter how they may cure the missing signature or cast a replacement ballot before 7:00pm on Election Day. The County Recorder shall attempt to contact the voter as soon as practicable using any contact information available in the voter’s record and any other source reasonably available to the County Recorder. Neither replacement ballots nor provisional ballots can be issued after 7:00pm on Election day. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 (Pl. Exh. 3 at 82-83.) 9 On June 10, 2020, Plaintiffs filed a two-count complaint against the Secretary and 10 the recorders for each of Arizona’s fifteen counties pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.6 (Doc. 11 1.) Both counts allege that the Election-Day cure deadline for unsigned ballot envelopes 12 violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution—in Count I, by 13 unjustifiably burdening the right to vote; in Count II, by denying procedural due process.7 14 (Id. ¶¶ 59-63.) Plaintiffs concurrently filed a motion for a preliminary and permanent 15 injunction requiring Defendants to allow voters to cure missing signatures in the same post- 16 election period applicable to perceived mismatched signatures. (Doc. 2.) 17 The Court granted motions to intervene filed by the State (Docs. 16, 28) and the 18 Republican National Committee, the Arizona Republican Party, and Donald J. Trump for 19 President, Inc. (Docs. 35, 60). At a June 23, 2020 scheduling conference, the Court 20 granted, without objection, Plaintiffs’ request to consolidate the hearing on their 21 preliminary injunction motion with the final bench trial on the merits. (Docs. 38, 39.) On 22 August 18, 2020, the Court held the consolidated hearing. After the admission of evidence 23 and oral argument, the matter was taken under advisement. 24 25 26 27 28 6 Section 1983 creates a cause of action against any person who, under color of state law, deprives another of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States. Long v. Cty. of L.A., 442 F.3d 1178, 1185 (9th Cir. 2006). 7 Count I also cites the First Amendment. Because Plaintiffs are challenging a state law, their claims arise under the Fourteenth Amendment, which applies the First Amendment’s protections against states and their political subdivisions. See City of Ladue v. Gilleo, 512 U.S. 43, 45 n.1 (1994). -4- Case 2:20-cv-01143-DLR Document 114 Filed 09/10/20 Page 5 of 24 1 2 3 4 5 II. Motion to Preclude Federal Rule of Evidence 702, which governs the admissibility of expert opinion testimony, provides: A witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if: 7 (a) the expert’s scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue; 8 (b) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data; 9 (c) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and 6 10 11 (d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case. 12 The State retained Professor Atkeson to opine as an expert on matters related to election 13 administration and voter behavior. 14 evidence, except paragraphs 55-62, 72-76, and 94, which Plaintiffs challenged as 15 unreliable. (Doc. 101.) Professor Atkeson’s report was stipulated into 16 A. The First Challenged Opinion 17 Professor Atkeson opined in paragraphs 55-62 and 94 that post-election cure 18 periods, especially generous ones, might result in lower cure rates. (St. Exh. 101.) 19 Professor Atkeson reached this conclusion in two ways: empirically and theoretically. 20 For her empirical analysis, Professor Atkeson looked to the total number of VBM 21 ballots rejected for a missing or mismatched signature in 2016 and 2018 across multiple 22 jurisdictions with different cure periods. She then calculated the percent of missing 23 signature or mismatched signature rejections as a percent of total ballots counted. These 24 calculations showed that some states with longer post-election cure periods rejected a 25 greater proportion of ballots with missing and mismatched signatures than other states with 26 shorter cure periods. In Professor Atkeson’s opinion, this data indicates longer post- 27 election cure periods might result in lower cure rates. 28 Professor Atkeson’s opinion regarding the implications of the empirical data is the -5- Case 2:20-cv-01143-DLR Document 114 Filed 09/10/20 Page 6 of 24 1 product of unreliable principles and methods. Rejection rates and cure rates are distinct, 2 and there is no available statewide data on the number of ballots in each jurisdiction that 3 initially were returned with missing or mismatched signatures and subsequently were 4 cured. Focusing solely on the number of ballots in each category that ultimately were 5 rejected reveals nothing about relative cure rates between these jurisdictions. Professor 6 Atkeson also fails to control for other variables that could impact the relative rejection rates 7 and does not assess whether the marginal differences between the examined jurisdictions 8 are statistically significant. Professor Atkeson’s opinion regarding the empirical data 9 therefore is inadmissible. 10 For her theoretical analysis, Professor Atkeson drew on her knowledge of and 11 experience in political science to opine that voters might not be motivated to undertake the 12 steps necessary to cure their ballots after an election unless a race is extraordinarily close. 13 To the extent Professor Atkeson bases her opinion on her knowledge of and experience in 14 political science, it is admitted. Professor Atkeson has significant, relevant experience in 15 political science and election administration. She is a Professor of Political Science at the 16 University of New Mexico, where she directs the Center for the Study of Voting, Elections 17 and Democracy and the Institute for Social Research. (Id. ¶ 2.) Professor Atkeson has 18 written extensively about election administration and political behavior, and she has spent 19 significant time observing election administration processes. (Id. ¶¶ 3-4.) 20 knowledge and experience in these areas, she may opine on the possible effects of post- 21 election cure periods on voter behavior. However, the Court will accept this opinion for 22 what it is—a political science theory about voter behavior—and assigns it little weight 23 because the opinion lacks empirical support and is equivocal. Based on her 24 Accordingly, with respect to the first challenged opinion, the Court precludes the 25 following portions of Professor Atkeson’s report: the third sentence of paragraph 56; the 26 second and third sentences of paragraph 57; the first and third sentences of paragraph 58; 27 the first sentence of paragraph 59; the words “and empirical results presented above suggest 28 otherwise” from paragraph 60; paragraph 61; and paragraph 94. The remaining portions -6- Case 2:20-cv-01143-DLR Document 114 Filed 09/10/20 Page 7 of 24 1 of the challenged paragraphs are admitted but assigned little weight. 2 B. The Second Challenged Opinion 3 Professor Atkeson opined that the addition of a five-day post-election cure period 4 for missing signatures likely would make it difficult or impossible for some counties to 5 complete the election process under Arizona’s current statutory limits.8 (Id. ¶¶ 72-76.) 6 This opinion is inadmissible for two reasons. First, Professor Atkeson bases her opinion 7 on an examination of Arizona’s election code and the declaration of Pima County Deputy 8 Recorder and Registrar of Voters Christopher Roads (St. Exh. 107), but she does not 9 analyze specific data regarding county staffing resources and funding, or the amount of 10 time election officials would spend implementing a post-election cure period for unsigned 11 ballot envelopes. Her opinion therefore is not based on data or facts. Second, Professor 12 Atkeson’s opinion will not help the Court understand the evidence or determine a fact at 13 issue. The Court can review and interpret Arizona law and draw inferences from Mr. 14 Roads’ declaration without the assistance of an expert. Accordingly, the Court preludes 15 the following portions of Professor Atkeson’s report: the second sentence of paragraph 73; 16 the first, second, sixth, and seventh sentences of paragraph 74; the second and sixth 17 sentences of paragraph 75; and paragraph 76. The remaining portions of the challenged 18 paragraphs are admitted. 19 III. Motion for a Preliminary and Permanent Injunction 20 Because the Court granted Plaintiffs’ request to consolidate the preliminary 21 injunction hearing with the final bench trial on the merits, the standards for the issuance of 22 a permanent injunction govern. See Knox v. Brnovich, 336 F. Supp. 3d 1063, 1067 (D. 23 Ariz. 2018). Before the Court may grant a permanent injunction, Plaintiffs must succeed 24 on the merits of at least one of their claims and show that (1) they have suffered or 25 imminently will suffer an irreparable injury, (2) no remedy available at law can adequately 26 This opinion is inconsistent with Professor Atkeson’s opinion that post-election cure periods, especially longer ones, might result in lower cure rates. If a generous postelection cure period reduces cure rates, it should likewise reduce the administrative burdens associated with curing deficient ballots. Thus, even if the second challenged opinion were admissible, the Court would assign it little weight given this internal inconsistency. 8 27 28 -7- Case 2:20-cv-01143-DLR Document 114 Filed 09/10/20 Page 8 of 24 1 compensate for that injury, (3) the balance of hardships warrants equitable relief, and (4) a 2 permanent injunction would not disserve the public interest. 3 MercExchange, LLC, 547 U.S. 388, 391 (2006). See eBay Inc. v. 4 A. Standing 5 Federal courts may exercise power only in the context of cases and controversies. 6 U.S. CONST. art. III, § 2, cl. 1. “Standing to sue is a doctrine rooted in the traditional 7 understanding of a case or controversy.” Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 136 S. Ct. 1540, 1547 8 (2016). By “limit[ing] the category of litigants empowered to maintain a lawsuit in federal 9 court to seek redress for a legal wrong,” the doctrine “ensure[s] that federal courts do not 10 exceed their authority as it has been traditionally understood[.]” Id. (internal citations 11 omitted). To have standing to litigate in federal court, a plaintiff “must have suffered or 12 be imminently threatened with a concrete and particularized ‘injury in fact’ that is fairly 13 traceable to the challenged action of the defendant and likely to be redressed by a favorable 14 judicial decision.” Lexmark Int’l, Inc. v. Static Control Components, Inc., 572 U.S. 118, 15 125 (2014) (citing Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560 (1992)). Only one 16 plaintiff needs standing when, as here, only injunctive relief is sought. Crawford v. Marion 17 Cty. Election Bd., 472 F.3d 949, 951 (7th Cir. 2007), aff’d, 553 U.S. 181, 189 n.7 (2008). 18 Plaintiffs assert standing to sue on behalf of their members under a doctrine known 19 as associational or representational standing. (Doc. 96 at 9.) To do so, Plaintiffs must 20 show that (1) their members would otherwise have standing to sue in their own right, (2) 21 the interests Plaintiffs seek to vindicate are germane to their organizational purpose, and 22 (3) neither the claim asserted nor the relief requested requires individual members to 23 participate in the lawsuit. Smith v. Pac. Props. and Dev. Corp., 358 F.3d 1097, 1101-02 24 (9th Cir. 2004). Although Plaintiffs must establish that they have relevant members, they 25 need not identify by name specific injured members if “it is relatively clear, rather than 26 merely speculative, that one or more members have been or will be adversely affected” by 27 the challenged law, and where Defendants “need not know the identity of a particular 28 member to understand and respond to” Plaintiffs’ claims. Nat’l Council of La Raza v. -8- Case 2:20-cv-01143-DLR Document 114 Filed 09/10/20 Page 9 of 24 1 Cegavske, 800 F.3d 1032, 1041 (9th Cir. 2015). 2 The Court finds that the ADP has standing to sue on behalf of its members.9 The 3 ADP is a formal membership organization whose members include Arizona voters 4 registered with the Democratic Party, of which there are 1,293,074 as of August 2020. (Pl. 5 Exh. 30 ¶ 5.) Roughly a third of Arizona voters are registered with the Democratic Party 6 (Pl. Exh. 1 at 10), and in past elections there has been at least one such voter whose ballot 7 was rejected due to a missing signature (Pl. Exh. 30 ¶ 16). It therefore is relatively clear, 8 rather than speculative, that on a prospective basis members of the ADP will be adversely 9 affected by the Election-Day deadline for curing missing signatures.10 Moreover, 10 Defendants (including the Intervenor-Defendants) do not need to know the identities of 11 specific affected ADP members to understand or respond to Plaintiffs’ claims. The voting 12 rights of registered Democratic voters are germane to the ADP’s organizational mission, 13 which is to elect Democratic Party candidates and promote Democratic ideals in Arizona. 14 (Id. ¶ 8.) Lastly, neither the claims asserted, nor the relief requested require individual 15 members to participate in the lawsuit. 16 Plaintiffs also assert standing to sue on their own behalves because the challenged 17 law adversely impacts their organizational missions. (Doc. 96 at 12.) “[A]n organization 18 may satisfy the Article III requirement of injury in fact if it can demonstrate: (1) frustration 19 of its organizational mission; and (2) diversion of its resources to combat” the adverse 20 effects of the challenged law. Smith, 358 F.3d at 1105. 21 The Court finds that the ADP has organizational standing.11 Rejection of ballots 22 reflecting votes for Democratic Party candidates frustrates the ADP’s organizational 23 mission.12 (Pl. Exh. 30 ¶ 9.) As a result, the ADP has diverted and anticipates further 24 25 26 27 28 9 The Court does not address whether the DNC or the DSCC also have standing to sue on behalf of their members. 10 The Court rejects the State’s argument that the injury suffered by such voters is not cognizable because it is self-inflicted. (Doc. 85-1 at 16.) Voters who forget to sign their ballots have not done so deliberately. Forgetfulness is an involuntary state that any voter might reasonably experience, and therefore is not avoidable in a practical sense. 11 The Court does not address whether the DNC or the DSCC have organizational standing. 12 The Court rejects the State’s argument that the ADP must prove more Democratic voters submit unsigned ballot envelopes than non-Democratic voters. This sets an -9- Case 2:20-cv-01143-DLR Document 114 Filed 09/10/20 Page 10 of 24 1 diversion of resources to counteract these effects. (Id. ¶ 24.) For example, the ADP invests 2 significant resources in helping Democratic voters fix signature issues. The ADP refers to 3 this process as “ballot chase.” Pre-election ballot chase requires the ADP to either divert 4 resources from other pre-election work or to hire additional staff to focus on pre-election 5 ballot chase. Post-election ballot chase, on the other hand, could be accomplished with 6 existing staff unburdened by pre-election work. (Id. ¶¶ 19-22.) Also, the ADP currently 7 channels additional educational resources to areas with low English literacy rates to ensure 8 that voters in those areas understand the signature rules for VBM ballots. A post-election 9 cure period for unsigned envelopes would liberate at least some of these resources for the 10 ADP’s pre-election organizational priorities, such as get-out-the-vote efforts and voter 11 persuasion. (Id. ¶¶ 25-28.) These are sufficiently concrete and particularized injuries that 12 are fairly traceable to the challenged law, and that could be redressed by a decision in 13 Plaintiffs’ favor. See Crawford, 472 F.3d at 951 (“Thus the new law injures the Democratic 14 Party by compelling the party to devote resources to getting to the polls those of its 15 supporters who would otherwise be discouraged by the new law from bothering to vote.”); 16 One Wis. Inst., Inc. v. Nichol, 186 F. Supp. 3d 958, 967 (W.D. Wis. 2016) (finding 17 expenditure of resources for educating voters about how to comply with new state voter 18 registration requirements sufficient to establish standing). 19 B. Unjustified Burden on Voting Rights 20 The Constitution protects the right to vote, but not the right to vote in any manner 21 one chooses. See Burdick v. Takushi, 504 U.S. 428, 433 (1992). “Common sense, as well 22 as constitutional law, compels the conclusion that government must play an active role in 23 structuring elections.” Id.; see also Storer v. Brown, 415 U.S. 724, 730 (1974) (“[T]here 24 must be a substantial regulation of elections if they are to be fair and honest and if some 25 sort of order, rather than chaos, is to accompany the democratic processes.”). Challenges 26 to election regulations therefore are resolved under a flexible standard designed to balance 27 28 impossibly high standard, as it cannot be known in advance how many voters will neglect to sign their ballot envelopes, who they will vote for, or how close those elections will be. - 10 - Case 2:20-cv-01143-DLR Document 114 Filed 09/10/20 Page 11 of 24 1 the individual’s right to vote with the need for rules ordering the process. The Court “must 2 weigh ‘the character and magnitude of the asserted injury to the rights protected by the 3 First and Fourteenth Amendments that the plaintiff seeks to vindicate’ against ‘the precise 4 interests put forward by the State as justifications for the burden imposed by its rule,’ taking 5 into consideration ‘the extent to which those interests make it necessary to burden the 6 plaintiff’s rights.’” Burdick, 504 U.S. at 434 (quoting Anderson v. Celebrezze, 460 U.S. 7 780, 789 (1983)). This framework commonly is called the Anderson/Burdick framework, 8 after the two Supreme Court decisions from which it derives. 9 Under Anderson/Burdick, the degree to which the Court scrutinizes “the propriety 10 of a state election law depends upon the extent to which a challenged regulation burdens 11 First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.” Id. A law that imposes severe burdens is subject 12 to strict scrutiny, meaning it must be narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest. 13 Id. “Lesser burdens, however, trigger less exacting review, and a State’s ‘important 14 regulatory interests’ will usually be enough to justify ‘reasonable, nondiscriminatory 15 restrictions.’” Timmons v. Twin Cities Area New Party, 520 U.S. 351, 358 (1997) (quoting 16 Burdick, 504 U.S. at 434). 17 1. Burdens 18 Plaintiffs do not challenge the requirement that voters sign their ballot envelopes; 19 they challenge the deadline by which voters must comply. They argue that the Election- 20 Day cure deadline imposes severe, or at least “significant,” burdens because voters are 21 disenfranchised if they fail to meet the deadline. (Doc. 2 at 12-13; Doc. 96 at 16.) 22 Plaintiffs’ argument misguidedly conflates the burdens imposed by a challenged law 23 with the consequences of noncompliance. By definition, a voting prerequisite is something 24 that voters must do before their votes will be counted. Whenever voters fail to comply 25 with a voting prerequisite, their votes are not counted and they are, as Plaintiffs use the 26 term, disenfranchised. If the burden imposed by a challenged law were measured by the 27 consequence of noncompliance, then every voting prerequisite would impose the same 28 burden and therefore would be subject to the same degree of scrutiny (presumably strict if - 11 - Case 2:20-cv-01143-DLR Document 114 Filed 09/10/20 Page 12 of 24 1 the burden is disenfranchisement). But this cannot be true because “not every voting 2 regulation is subject to strict scrutiny,” Pub. Integrity Alliance, Inc. v. City of Tucson, 836 3 F.3d 1019, 1024 (9th Cir. 2016), and the Anderson/Burdick framework necessarily 4 contemplates that election laws can impose varying burdens. Although the number of 5 voters whose votes are not counted can be evidence of the severity of the burdens imposed 6 by a challenged law, the fact that those votes are not counted is not itself the burden. 7 Crawford is illustrative. There, the Supreme Court considered whether Indiana’s 8 voter identification law, which required in-person voters to present photo identification, 9 unconstitutionally burdened the right to vote. 553 U.S. at 185. A voter who had photo 10 identification but was unable to present it on Election Day, or a voter who was indigent or 11 had a religious objection to being photographed, could cast a provisional ballot, which then 12 would be counted if the voter traveled to the circuit court clerk within ten days after the 13 election and either presented photo identification or executed an affidavit. Id. at 185-86. 14 In his controlling opinion, Justice Stevens explained “[t]he burdens that are relevant to the 15 issue before us are those imposed on persons who are eligible to vote but do not possess a 16 current photo identification that complies with the requirements of” the challenged law. 17 Id. at 198. The Court described these burdens as “the inconvenience of making a trip to 18 the [Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles], gathering the required documents, and posing for 19 a photograph,” to obtain the required identification. Id. The Court did not characterize the 20 burdens as disenfranchisement, even though failure to obtain the required identification or 21 execute the appropriate affidavit would preclude the voter from casting a ballot that would 22 be counted. 23 Here, there is nothing generally or inherently difficult about signing an envelope by 24 Election Day. The small proportion of ballots regularly discarded due to a missing 25 signature indicates that the challenged deadline imposes some degree of burden, 26 particularly on voters who return their ballots too close to Election Day to receive notice 27 of the problem or a meaningful opportunity to cure. But over 99% of voters timely comply. 28 (St. Exh. 101 ¶¶ 56-57.) If the Election-Day cure deadline imposed significant burdens, it - 12 - Case 2:20-cv-01143-DLR Document 114 Filed 09/10/20 Page 13 of 24 1 is reasonable to expect that more voters would fail to overcome those burdens.13 The Court 2 therefore finds that the challenged deadline imposes only minimal burdens. 3 2. Justifications 4 The State offers four interests it believes are served by the challenged deadline: (1) 5 fraud prevention; (2) reducing administrative burdens on poll workers; (3) orderly 6 administration of elections; and (4) promoting voter participation and turnout. (Doc 85-1 7 at 34-35.) The Court addresses each in turn. 8 i. Fraud Prevention 9 The State’s interest in preventing voter and election fraud is important. See 10 Crawford, 553 U.S. at 195. This interest is served by Arizona’s signature requirement, and 11 all deadlines serve as an enforcement mechanism for the underlying requirements to which 12 those deadlines correspond. Thus, the State’s fraud prevention interest is served by 13 imposing a deadline by which voters must sign their ballots. But the relevant question is 14 not whether the State may impose a deadline. It is whether the State has an interest in this 15 deadline that outweighs or justifies the minimal burdens it imposes. Because there is no 16 evidence that the challenged deadline reasonably prevents fraud, the Court finds that fraud 17 prevention does not justify the minimal burdens imposed. 18 To begin, Arizona provides a more generous post-election deadline for resolving at 19 least two other voter identification issues—VBM ballots in envelopes with perceived 20 mismatched signatures and conditional provisional ballots cast by in-person voters who 21 arrive at the polls without identification. Although these two identification issues differ in 22 some respects from unsigned ballot envelopes, they pose the same fundamental problem: 23 election officials cannot verify that the person who submitted the ballot is eligible to do so 24 without additional information. Moreover, the post-election cure periods applicable to 25 perceived mismatched signatures and conditional provisional ballots show that the 26 27 28 13 The Court is not suggesting that there is some minimum threshold of voters that must be affected before a voting rule can be deemed to impose a more substantial burden. But the number of voters who fail to comply with a challenged law is probative (though not necessarily dispositive) of the burdens imposed. - 13 - Case 2:20-cv-01143-DLR Document 114 Filed 09/10/20 Page 14 of 24 1 Election-Day deadline for curing missing signatures is not necessary to advance the State’s 2 fraud prevention interest. Although the State is not required to apply the least restrictive 3 deadline, the State has not explained how its fraud prevention interest would be harmed if 4 voters could cure missing signatures in the same post-election timeframe applicable to 5 these other identification issues. 6 Further, according to the State, most elections are not plagued by fraud, and fraud 7 generally is not suspected based on the number of ballots returned without signatures. 8 (Doc. 112 at 69:19-21, 72:1-4.) In most cases, ballots in unsigned envelopes are not 9 fraudulent ballots—they are ballots cast by otherwise eligible voters who neglected to sign 10 the envelope. The State is not preventing fraud by discarding these ballots without giving 11 voters a meaningful opportunity to supply their missing signatures. 12 ii. Reducing Administrative Burdens 13 The State’s interest in reducing administrative burdens on poll workers is important. 14 See Lemons v. Bradbury, 538 F.3d 1098, 1105 (9th Cir. 2008). On this record, however, 15 that interest does not justify the minimal burdens imposed by the challenged deadline. 16 Most Arizona counties historically have implemented some form of a pre-election 17 cure period for missing signatures, and the EPM now requires all counties to make 18 reasonable efforts to contact impacted voters and afford them an opportunity to cure 19 missing signatures by 7:00 p.m. on Election Day. The State has not shown that continuing 20 to implement these existing cure procedures for an additional five business days after an 21 election is likely to impose meaningful administrative burdens on election officials given 22 the relatively small number of ballots at issue. For example, in 2016, Arizona rejected 23 3,079 ballots in unsigned envelopes. In 2018, that number was 2,435. (St. Exh. 101 at 26, 24 Table 2.) In any given election, such ballots constitute roughly one tenth of one percent of 25 total ballots submitted, and available county-level data indicates that not all voters who are 26 notified of a missing signature before Election Day cure the problem. (Pl. Exhs. 8 at 3, 17 27 at 3-4, 20 at 3, 22 at 2.) Thus, if Arizona were to provide a post-election cure period for 28 unsigned ballot envelopes, likely only a subset of that fraction of a percent would take - 14 - Case 2:20-cv-01143-DLR Document 114 Filed 09/10/20 Page 15 of 24 1 advantage of the opportunity. 2 Further, in the Secretary’s judgment, Arizona could implement a post-election cure 3 period without imposing significant administrative burdens on election officials because 4 counties already do so for other voter identification issues. (Pl. Exh. 26 at 7-8.) Coconino 5 County Recorder Patty Hansen echoed this sentiment, declaring that a post-election cure 6 period would not impose significant administrative burdens or impact Coconino County’s 7 ability meet Arizona’s certification deadline. (Pl. Exh. 29 ¶ 20.) Apache County and 8 Navajo County also support a post-election cure period for missing signatures. (Doc. 90.) 9 The Court assigns great weight to the Secretary’s judgment, given her position as Arizona’s 10 chief election officer and corroboration from these county officials. 11 In contrast, Mr. Roads, Pima County’s Deputy Recorder and Registrar of Voters, 12 declared that a post-election cure period would impose significant administrative burdens 13 on Pima County because the process for curing a missing signature is more labor intensive 14 than curing a perceived mismatched signature: 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 The only way that this can occur is for the voter to travel to the Ballot Processing Center, for our staff to locate the particular ballot in the ballot room, to bring the ballot to the voter in the lobby and have them sign it. Our procedures require that two workers with different political party affiliations be present whenever a ballot is being handled. This will result in substantially more effort than occurs for a voter to confirm their signature. A voter can simply call our office to confirm their signature. (St. Exh. 107 ¶ 19.) Later in his declaration, however, Mr. Roads stated that “[o]nly a very small percentage of voters in Pima County fail to sign their ballots.” (Id. ¶ 21.) Indeed, in the 2018 General Election, Pima County rejected only 75 ballots due to a missing signature. This figure was 120 for the 2016 General Election, 64 for the 2014 General Election, and 72 for the 2012 General Election. (Pl. Exh. 28 at 7.) Although curing missing signatures after an election might impose marginally greater administrative burdens on Pima County, these additional burdens are not significant enough to justify the challenged deadline considering these minimal figures. Accordingly, on these facts, the Court finds that a post-election cure period would - 15 - Case 2:20-cv-01143-DLR Document 114 Filed 09/10/20 Page 16 of 24 1 not impose meaningful administrative burdens on election officials and, therefore, the 2 State’s interest in alleviating administrative burdens does not justify the minimal burdens 3 imposed by the challenged deadline. Cf. Lemons, 538 F.3d at 1104-05 (concluding that the 4 state need not provide petition signers with notice that their signatures had been rejected 5 and an opportunity cure where such procedures “would impose a significant burden” on 6 election officials (emphasis added)); see also Democratic Exec. Comm. of Fla. v. Lee, 915 7 F.3d 1312, 1322-23 (11th Cir. 2019) (“In Lemons, the Ninth Circuit worried about the 8 administrative difficulties associated with suddenly requiring state officials to provide 9 notice and a chance to cure thousands of petition signers when no such requirement 10 previously existed. . . . But here, Florida already had a cure mechanism for those with 11 mismatched signatures.”); Saucedo v. Gardner, 335 F. Supp. 3d 202, 216 (D N.H. 2018) 12 (noting that, in rejecting the claims in Lemons, the Ninth Circuit “assigned great weight to 13 the administrative burden of additional procedures”). 14 iii. Orderly Administration of Elections 15 The State has an important interest in the orderly administration of elections, 16 Lemons, 538 F.3d at 1104, but on this record that interest does not justify the minimal 17 burdens imposed by the challenged deadline. 18 In the Secretary’s judgment, there is no meaningful difference between an unsigned 19 ballot envelope and one with a perceived mismatched signature. The voter’s signature is a 20 means of identity verification and in both scenarios the voter’s identity cannot be verified. 21 (Pl. Exh. 26 at 5.) The Secretary also views VBM ballots in unsigned envelopes as 22 functionally equivalent to conditional provisional ballots cast by in-person voters without 23 identification, the latter of which benefit from a post-election cure period. (Id.) Contrary 24 to the State’s litigation position, the Secretary believes that a uniform cure period for all 25 three of these identification issues would promote the orderly administration of elections 26 by reducing voter confusion and ensuring that more eligible voters have their ballots 27 counted. (Id. at 5-6.) The Court gives great weight to the Secretary’s judgment, given her 28 role as Arizona’s chief election officer. - 16 - Case 2:20-cv-01143-DLR Document 114 Filed 09/10/20 Page 17 of 24 1 The State insists there is a meaningful difference between unsigned envelopes and 2 those with perceived mismatched signatures. For example, the State emphasizes that an 3 unsigned envelope is almost always the result of voter error. In contrast, a poll worker 4 determines whether an envelope contains a mismatched signature, and that determination 5 easily can be erroneous because signature matching is not an exact science, poll workers 6 are not handwriting experts, people’s signatures change over time, and the quality of a 7 signature can vary depending on external factors, such as the writing surface or instrument. 8 (Doc. 85-1 at 26-27.) This is true. But the State does not contend that the shorter deadline 9 for curing unsigned envelopes is intended to penalize voters for their errors. Moreover, the 10 differences between envelopes with missing and perceived mismatched signatures do not 11 explain Arizona’s different and better treatment of conditional provisional ballots cast by 12 in-person voters without identification. Failure to bring identification to the polls is 13 generally an error of the voter not a poll worker. Yet, Arizona permits those in-person 14 voters to cure the problem up to five days after an election. 15 The State’s position is further undermined by Arizona’s generous interpretation of 16 what constitutes a signature. No uniform policy governs whether a mark qualifies as a 17 signature triggering an entitlement to the post-election cure period, but the State encourages 18 election officials to take a broad view. (Doc. 112 at 54:15-16, 55:13-15.) For example, 19 Pima County officials are instructed that any mark could be a signature. (Pl. Exh. 28 at 4.) 20 A system in which a voter who makes even the most minimal of marks receives the benefit 21 of a post-election cure period while a voter who makes no mark does not is unreasonable. 22 Indeed, this differential treatment makes Arizona an outlier. According to Professor 23 Atkeson, not all states rely on signatures or signatures alone to verify voters’ identities, and 24 of those that do, not all provide cure periods. Among the states that provide cure periods, 25 there is no consensus on the appropriate duration. Some states require voters to cure 26 signature issues by Election Day, others permit post-election curing. Some have more 27 generous cure periods than Arizona’s, and others less. But Arizona currently is the only 28 state that sets a different deadline for curing a missing signature than a perceived - 17 - Case 2:20-cv-01143-DLR Document 114 Filed 09/10/20 Page 18 of 24 1 mismatched signature. (St. Exh. 101 at 9-10, Table 1.) Arizona’s outlier status in these 2 cross-state comparisons suggests that setting different deadlines for curing these two 3 identification problems is not rational or orderly. 4 On this record, treating unsigned envelopes worse than those with perceived 5 mismatched signatures or in-person conditional provisional ballots undermines, rather than 6 serves, the State’s interest in the orderly administration of elections. The Court therefore 7 finds that the State’s interest does not justify the minimal burdens imposed by the 8 challenged law. 9 iv. Promoting Voter Participation and Turnout 10 The State’s interest in promoting voter participation and turnout is important, 11 Tedards v. Ducey, 951 F.3d 1041, 1067 (9th Cir. 2020), but that interest is not served by 12 the challenged law, nor does it justify the minimal burdens imposed. There is no credible 13 evidence or empirical support for the proposition that a post-election cure period will 14 reduce cure rates. The State relies on Professor Atkeson’s report. (Doc. 85-1 at 34.) But 15 Professor Atkeson’s empirical analysis is inadmissible and her opinion that voters might 16 not be motivated to cure ballot defects after an election is given little weight. Further, the 17 State’s contention is undermined by the accommodations Arizona provides for ballots in 18 envelopes with perceived mismatched signatures and conditional provisional ballots cast 19 by in-person voters without identification. In these situations, the State is willing to tolerate 20 the risk that voters will forego curing their ballots after an election. Yet the State offers no 21 cogent explanation for why this highly speculative risk justifies differential treatment of 22 unsigned envelopes. The State’s litigation position also is undermined by its chief election 23 officer, who believes a uniform post-election cure period for all VBM signature issues will 24 result in more eligible voters having their votes counted. (Pl. Exh. 26 at 6.) Accordingly, 25 on this record, the State’s voter participation interest is not reasonably served by the 26 challenged law and does not justify the minimal burdens imposed. 27 28 3. Conclusion Because a signature is Arizona’s method of verifying that a person who returns a - 18 - Case 2:20-cv-01143-DLR Document 114 Filed 09/10/20 Page 19 of 24 1 ballot is the person to whom that ballot belongs, it necessarily follows that Arizona may 2 set a deadline by which voters must provide that signature. Deadlines come with an 3 inherent arbitrariness, see United States v. Locke, 471 U.S. 84, 94 (1985), but that does not 4 shield them from judicial review, see, e.g., Anderson, 460 U.S. at 805-06 (invalidating a 5 state deadline for filing nominating petitions); Nader v. Brewer, 531 F.3d 1028, 1039 (9th 6 Cir. 2008) (same). Anderson and Nader involved more burdensome deadlines, but even at 7 its most deferential, the Anderson/Burdick framework is not a rubber stamp. Layers of 8 minimal burdens can compound and, in the aggregate, prevent or deter otherwise eligible 9 citizens from successfully voting. Anderson/Burdick therefore directs the Court in all cases 10 to consider the extent to which a state’s regulatory interests make it necessary to impose 11 additional burdens on voting rights. On the facts of this case, the challenged deadline fails 12 to withstand the most deferential level of scrutiny. The Court therefore finds in favor of 13 Plaintiffs on Count I. 14 C. Denial of Procedural Due Process 15 The Fourteenth Amendment prohibits state governments from depriving people of 16 “life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” U.S. CONST. amend. XIV, § 1. To 17 succeed on a procedural due process claim, a plaintiff must establish “(1) a deprivation of 18 a constitutionally protected liberty . . . interest, and (2) a denial of adequate procedural 19 protections.” Franceschi v. Yee, 887 F.3d 927, 935 (9th Cir. 2018) (internal quotation and 20 citation omitted). 21 As an initial matter, the State argues that Plaintiffs may not bring a procedural due 22 process challenge to an election regulation outside the Anderson/Burdick framework. 23 (Doc. 85-1 at 19-20.) True, the Ninth Circuit has noted that First Amendment, equal 24 protection, and due process claims are each “folded into the Anderson/Burdick inquiry.” 25 Soltysik v. Padilla, 910 F.3d 438, 449 n.7 (9th Cir. 2018). But the Ninth Circuit made these 26 remarks in cases that did not involve procedural due process claims. See, e.g., Id.; Ariz. 27 Libertarian Party v. Reagan, 798 F.3d 723, 729 n.7 (9th Cir. 2015); Dudum v. Arntz, 640 28 F.3d 1098, 1106 n.15 (9th Cir. 2011). Multiple district courts, both within and outside the - 19 - Case 2:20-cv-01143-DLR Document 114 Filed 09/10/20 Page 20 of 24 1 Ninth Circuit, have considered procedural due process challenges to election regulations 2 under ordinary procedural due process principles. See, e.g., Saucedo, 335 F. Supp. 3d at 3 214-17; Martin v. Kemp, 341 F. Supp. 3d 1326, 1337-1340 (N.D. Ga. 2018); Zessar v. 4 Helander, No. 05 C 1917, 2006 WL 642646, at *6-9 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 13, 2006); Raetzel v. 5 Parks/Bellemont Absentee Election Bd., 762 F. Supp. 1354, 1355-58 (D. Ariz. 1990). The 6 cases cited by the State, then, might be best understood as placing all substantive due 7 process and equal protection challenges to election regulations under the Anderson/Burdick 8 framework. 9 Regardless, the Court does not need to resolve this legal question. If procedural due 10 process claims are analyzed under the Anderson/Burdick framework, as the State argues, 11 then Plaintiffs prevail for the reasons discussed in Part III(B) of this decision. If, as 12 Plaintiffs argue, ordinary procedural due process principles apply, then Plaintiffs prevail 13 for the reasons discussed below. 14 1. Constitutionally Protected Liberty Interest 15 Voting is a fundamental right, Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 560-562 (1964), and 16 the right to vote necessarily includes the right to have one’s legitimately cast vote counted, 17 see Lee, 915 F.3d at 1315. There is no corresponding right to vote absentee. See McDonald 18 v. Bd. of Election Comm’rs of Chi., 394 U.S. 802, 807-08 (1969); Crawford, 553 U.S. at 19 209 (Scalia, J., concurring in the judgment); Griffin v. Roupas, 385 F.3d 1128, 1130 (7th 20 Cir. 2004). “But once the State permits voters to vote absentee, it must afford appropriate 21 due process protections . . . before rejecting an absentee ballot.” Zessar, 2006 WL 642646, 22 at *5; see also Saucedo, 335 F. Supp. 3d at 217 (“Having induced voters to vote by absentee 23 ballot, the State must provide adequate process to ensure that voters’ ballots are fairly 24 considered and, if eligible, counted.”); Martin, 341 F. Supp. 3d at 1338 (“Having created 25 an absentee voter regime through which qualified voters can exercise their fundamental 26 right to vote, the State must now provide absentee voters with constitutionally adequate 27 protection.”); Raetzel, 762 F. Supp. at 1358 (concluding that the privilege of absentee 28 voting, once granted, is “deserving of due process”). Accordingly, the Court finds that - 20 - Case 2:20-cv-01143-DLR Document 114 Filed 09/10/20 Page 21 of 24 1 Plaintiffs—specifically, the ADP member voters on whose behalf Plaintiffs sue—have a 2 constitutionally protected liberty interest in having their ballots counted. 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 2. Adequacy of Procedural Protections The Court assess the adequacy of Arizona’s procedural protections by balancing three factors: First, the private interest that will be affected by the official action; second, the risk of an erroneous deprivation of such interest through the procedures used, and the probable value, if any, of additional or substitute procedural safeguards; and finally, the Government’s interest, including the function involved and the fiscal and administrative burdens that the additional or substitute procedural requirement would entail. Matthews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 335 (1976). 11 The first factor favors Plaintiffs. “[T]he private interest at issue implicates the 12 individual’s fundamental right to vote and is therefore entitled to substantial weight.” 13 Martin, 341 F. Supp. 3d. at 1338; see also Saucedo, 335 F. Supp. 3d. at 218 (according 14 “significant weight” to the plaintiffs’ interest in having their absentee ballots counted). 15 The second factor is mixed. “[P]rocedural due process rules are shaped by the risk 16 of error inherent in the truthfinding process as applied to the generality of cases, not the 17 rare exceptions.” Mathews, 424 U.S. at 344. Only 0.10% of total ballots were disqualified 18 for lacking signatures in the 2018 General Election, a figure that stays roughly consistent 19 from election to election. Generally, then, the risk that one’s ballot will be rejected because 20 of a missing signature is low. See, e.g., Veterans for Common Sense v. Shinseki, 678 F.3d 21 1013, 1035-36 (9th Cir. 2012) (agreeing that “the risk of error was low” where “only 4% 22 of veterans who filed for benefits claims are affected”). Moreover, unlike signature 23 matching, which can be fraught with error, the risk that a poll worker will erroneously 24 conclude that a ballot envelope is unsigned is negligible. 25 On the other hand, Arizona does not require a signature for its own sake; the 26 signature serves as a means of identity verification. The risk that election officials will 27 erroneously conclude that a ballot in an unsigned envelope was not, in fact, cast by the 28 person to whom that ballot belongs is more significant, as most of these ballots likely are - 21 - Case 2:20-cv-01143-DLR Document 114 Filed 09/10/20 Page 22 of 24 1 returned by eligible voters rather than impostors. For these voters, a post-election cure 2 period likely would be valuable. For example, although there is no statewide data on cure 3 rates, available county-level data suggests that some (though not all) voters who receive 4 adequate pre-election notice of a missing signature correct the problem. (See, e.g., Pl. 5 Exhs. 7 at 2, 8 at 3, 19 at 4.) It is reasonable to expect such trends to continue after the 6 election. Further, voters who return their ballots too close to Election Day, especially those 7 without phone numbers who must be notified of a problem via mail, often do not receive 8 adequate pre-election notice of a missing signature or a meaningful opportunity to cure. A 9 post-election cure period would increase the likelihood that such voters learn of and fix 10 such deficiencies. 11 The final factor favors Plaintiffs. For reasons explained in Part III(B)(2) of this 12 decision, the State’s interests in maintaining its Election-Day deadline for curing unsigned 13 envelopes are weak. There is no reason to believe that an Election-Day cure deadline is 14 any better at preventing fraud (to the extent it exists) than the post-election cure deadlines 15 applicable to envelopes with perceived mismatched signatures or conditional provisional 16 ballots cast by in-person voters without identification. 17 participation concerns are speculative, equivocal, and lacking in empirical support. A post- 18 election cure period would not impose meaningful administrative burdens on election 19 officials. And Arizona’s chief election officer believes that a uniform cure period would 20 promote the orderly administration of elections. 21 The State’s abstract voter 3. Conclusion 22 Because the second Matthews factor is mixed, Plaintiffs’ procedural due process 23 claim largely comes down to balancing the ADP member voters’ interest in having their 24 ballots counted against the State’s interest in preserving its Election-Day cure deadline. 25 The balance might be different if implementing a post-election cure period would impose 26 significant administrative burdens or otherwise impair important state interests. But no 27 such showing has been made by the State here. The Court therefore finds in favor of 28 Plaintiffs on Count II. - 22 - Case 2:20-cv-01143-DLR Document 114 Filed 09/10/20 Page 23 of 24 1 D. Equitable Factors 2 In every election, the ballots of some otherwise eligible voters inevitably will be 3 rejected due to missing signatures, and some of those voters certainly will be members of 4 the ADP. This is more likely to occur if those voters return their ballots close to or on 5 Election Day. The loss of one’s vote constitutes an irreparable harm for which there is no 6 adequate remedy available at law, and which could be mitigated with the implementation 7 of post-election cure procedures. The State argues that Plaintiffs’ delay in bringing this 8 lawsuit implies a lack of irreparable harm (Doc. 85-1 at 39), but it was not until the EPM 9 was finalized near the end of 2019 that the State’s unjustified differential treatment of 10 unsigned ballot envelopes became apparent. Though Plaintiffs could have brought this suit 11 sooner than they did, the Court does not find their delay so substantial as to undermine the 12 harms alleged. 13 Given the weightiness of the rights at stake and the negligible administrative 14 burdens a post-election cure period would impose on the State, the balance of equities 15 favors injunctive relief. The evidence does not support the State’s argument than an 16 injunction would “divert scarce resources at a time when they are sorely needed for 17 tabulation.” (Doc. 85-1 at 39.) The challenged deadline impacts a fraction of a percent of 18 voters, and only a subset of those voters would likely take advantage of a post-election cure 19 period. Election officials therefore are not likely to be overwhelmed with additional post- 20 election cure duties if the Court were to issue an injunction. 21 Nor would an injunction disserve the public interest. The evidence demonstrates 22 that a post-election cure period would better achieve the orderly administration of elections 23 and likely result in more eligible voters having their ballots counted, all without imposing 24 meaningful burdens on election officials. Citing Purcell v. Gonzalez, 549 U.S. 1, 4 (2006), 25 the State argues that an injunction altering election rules this close to an election disserves 26 the public interest by confusing voters. (Doc. 85-1 at 40.) But Plaintiffs are not asking 27 election officials to devise new rules out of whole cloth. They are asking those officials to 28 continue applying the same procedures they have in place now, but for a little longer. This - 23 - Case 2:20-cv-01143-DLR Document 114 Filed 09/10/20 Page 24 of 24 1 change is not likely to confuse voters, especially when the injunction would replace 2 arbitrary differential treatment with uniformity, and when the change is welcomed by 3 Arizona’s chief election officer. 4 E. Conclusion 5 On the facts of this case, Arizona’s Election-Day deadline for curing unsigned ballot 6 envelopes imposes minimal but unjustifiable burdens on the right to vote and is an 7 inadequate procedural safeguard, particularly for voters who return their ballots too close 8 to Election Day to receive adequate pre-election notice of a missing signature and an 9 opportunity to cure. Plaintiffs have succeeded on the merits of their claims and shown that 10 the equities favor injunctive relief. Accordingly, 11 IT IS ORDERED that Plaintiffs’ motion to preclude certain opinions of Professor 12 Atkeson (Doc. 101) is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART as explained in 13 Part II of this order. 14 IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary and 15 permanent injunction (Doc. 2) is GRANTED. 16 officers, employees, and successors, and all persons acting in concert with each or any of 17 them, must allow voters who are determined to have submitted an early ballot (referred to 18 in this order as a VBM ballot) in an envelope without a signature the opportunity to correct 19 the missing signature until 5:00 p.m. on the fifth business day after a primary, general or 20 special election that includes a federal office or the third business day after any other 21 election. 22 23 24 Defendants, their respective agents, IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk of the Court shall enter judgment in favor Plaintiffs and against Defendants and terminate this case. Dated this 10th day of September, 2020. 25 26 27 28 Douglas L. Rayes United States District Judge - 24 -

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