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LWV of Arizona Joins Case Supporting Navajo Nation Voting Rights

Navajo Nation Reservation Residents Must Be Allowed More Time for Ballot Delivery 

SAN FRANCISCO, CA—Late Tuesday, the League of Women Voters of Arizona filed a friend of the court brief in the federal court case, Yazzie v. Hobbs, which asks the state to count ballots received from reservations if they are postmarked for Election Day and received within 10 days of November 3. Yazzie v. Hobbs is currently pending in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. 

“Navajo Nation voters have a right to equal access to the ballot, but current law fails to account for the unique mail delivery delays they experience,” said Pinny Sheoran, state advocacy chair of the League of Women Voters of Arizona. “Navajo Nation leadership have taken extraordinary steps to protect their members from COVID-19, and the tribe’s members should not be penalized for protecting themselves when they vote. It is past time to ensure Navajo Nation voters can access Arizona’s mail voting system with the same protections and assurances as non-reservation residents.” 

Arizona has offered mail voting options to all voters in the state since 1998, with a requirement that all mail ballots must be received at the proper election office by 7:00 pm on Election Day. However, lack of proximity to postal offices means those living on the Navajo Nation reservation experience significantly longer mail delivery times. First class mail can take upwards of 10 days to be delivered from households on tribal reservations. Because of the unique mail delays experienced by Navajo Nation residents, the state must accept mail ballots postmarked by Election Day on November 3 and received up to November 13, 2020. 

“It is the duty of the US government and state governments to ensure equal access to the ballot for all. We cannot allow COVID-19 and a history of unfair, discriminatory service to disenfranchise tribal nation voters,” said Dr. Deborah Ann Turner, president of the board of directors of the League of Women Voters of the United States. “More than a dozen states allow ballots postmarked by Election Day to be counted if received after Election Day. Arizona must recognize the unequal burden placed on Navajo Nation residents who do not have equal access to postal services due to long standing injustice. The state must accept their correctly postmarked ballots after Election Day, thereby ensuring their equal and fair access to the vote.” 

“Given the significant and unique hurdles Navajo Nation residents face in accessing postal services and in-person voting locations, relief from Arizona’s ballot-receipt deadline is important and warranted under the law,” said Michael Donofrio of Stris & Maher, LLP, counsel for the League of Women Voters of Arizona. “Stris & Maher is proud to assist the League of Women Voters of Arizona in addressing this critical cause.” 

The League of Women Voters is represented by Stris & Maher LLP. 

“Given the significant and unique hurdles Navajo Nation residents face in accessing postal services and in-person voting locations, relief from Arizona’s ballot-receipt deadline is important and warranted under the law,” said Michael Donofrio of Stris & Maher, LLP. “Stris & Maher is proud to assist the League of Women Voters of Arizona in addressing this critical cause.”

Today, October 5, is the last day for Arizonans to register to vote in the November 3 general election. Arizona voters can request mail-in ballots until October 23.

Read the amicus brief here.

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PRESS CONTACT: Kayla Vix | 202-809-9668 | [email protected]