WASHINGTON – Voting rights groups who thought they had until Oct. 23 to register new voters were scrambling Wednesday after a federal court set a new registration deadline of 11:59 p.m. Thursday.
The ruling late Tuesday by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stays a lower court’s order that extended the deadline from the original Oct. 5, after advocates claimed that the COVID-19 shutdown earlier this year prevented them from registering thousands of potential voters.
The appeals court said the lower court had no business extending the deadline – but also delayed its stay until Thursday to ensure that the thousands who have registered since Oct. 5 would not have their registrations thrown out.
Advocates said they were disappointed with the ruling. But they also claimed that they have been able to register thousands of new voters during the registration window since Oct. 5, and that they continue doing so until Thursday.
“Mi Familia Vota along with our partner organizations are going to continue to work tirelessly to ensure that we can register as many eligible voters as possible so they can participate in this Election,” said Yara Marin, the organization’s political director.
“We’re also super proud that we stood up for our fundamental right to vote, and at the end of the day we won an extension of 10 days to the voter registration deadline,” she said.
State Rep. Reginald Bolding, D-Phoenix, and co-executive director of Arizona Coalition for Change, said voting rights activists are “using whatever we can to do what we can to register literally hundreds and hopefully thousands of people over these next two days.”
“What we expect is that our election officials will do whatever they can to ensure that people are
able to vote in a safe and secure manner and that we get the results timely,” Bolding said.
Mi Familia Vota and Arizona Coalition for Change filed suit in federal court on Sept. 30 arguing that restrictions imposed for COVID-19 sharply reduced their ability to reach out to and register new voters, potentially disenfranchising thousands of prospective voters. A federal district judge agreed on Oct. 5 – the day registration was supposed to end in Arizona – and ordered the deadline extended to Oct. 23.
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs initially said she would not challenge that ruling because she did not want to further confuse voters. But when the Republican National Committee and the Arizona attorney general said they planned an appeal, Hobbs changed course and joined the appeal last weekend.
After a hearing Monday and a day of mediation Tuesday failed to reach an agreement, a three-judge panel of the circuit court stepped in late Tuesday night and ordered the new Oct. 15 deadline.