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Mi Familia Vota v. Hobbs

Issues: Whether previous stay-at-home orders and other closures due to the coronavirus pandemic justify an extension of Arizona's voter registration deadline past the original date of Oct. 5, 2020.
State: Arizona
Court: U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit
Status: On Oct. 5, deadline of Oct. 5 extended to Oct. 23; on Oct. 13, temporarily hold on extension issued by 9th Circuit, to take effect on Oct. 15

In Arizona, the deadline to register to vote in the November 2020 election was Oct. 5, 2020. On that day, U.S. District Judge Steven Logan extended the voter-registration deadline by 18 days, ordering state election officials to accept all voter-registration applications that they received by Oct. 23.

Logan’s order came at the request of two non-profit groups that register voters, Mi Familia Vota and the Arizona Coalition for Change, as well as a Mi Familia Vota organizer, Ulises Ventura. They argued that enforcing the Oct. 5 deadline during the COVID-19 pandemic would burden their constitutional rights.

The state countered that the plaintiffs had waited too long to bring their case, and that it has implemented various measures – for example, allowing voters to register online – to make it easier to register to vote. Logan acknowledged “the importance of reducing voter confusion,” but he observed that “31 other states have later voter deadlines than Arizona.” Moreover, Logan added, voters are not likely to be confused if the deadline is extended: “Voters who are already registered will not need to bother with the new deadline, and those voters that were unable to register before” the Oct. 5 deadline “now have extra time.”

The Republican National Committee, which had joined the lawsuit to oppose the plaintiffs’ request for an extension, appealed Logan’s ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

In an unsigned opinion on Oct. 13, the 9th Circuit put Logan’s order on hold, effective Oct. 15. The 9th Circuit reasoned that although restrictions imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic made it harder for the plaintiffs to register voters, they could still do so online or by mail. By contrast, the 9th Circuit continued, an Oct. 23 deadline would place a “significant” administrative burden on the state. And the plaintiffs’ “extremely late filing relative to the deadline” also weighed in favor of the state, the court of appeals concluded.