Fight Continues Over Mail-In Ballot Deadline For Navajo Voters

Published: Thursday, October 8, 2020 - 1:53pm
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Ballots are already being sent out to Arizona voters, but the state is facing a lawsuit over access to voting by mail. Members of the Navajo Nation say they need extra time for their mail-in ballots to be received.

Six members of the Navajo Nation sued Arizona’s Secretary of State’s Office in August saying, when it comes to voting by mail, Navajo voters have a disadvantage. Most who live on the large, rural reservation can’t get mail delivered to their homes and many have to drive miles to get to a post office. The time it takes for ballots mailed from the Nation to be delivered to the election facility can also be longer than from urban areas. The suit asks for a 10-day grace period for Navajo voters’ ballots if they are received after Election Day.

“The obstacles that they go through to vote, the majority of Americans would not do it," said O.J. Semans, with Four Directions, a Native voting advocacy group that helped put together the lawsuit. 

A district court judge in September denied the request, saying Navajo voters face challenges, but not because the state’s vote-by-mail deadline is discriminatory. The Navajo voters in the case appealed that decision. The appeal is expected to go before a three-judge panel next week.

The state this week called for the appeal to be dismissed. In the response, attorneys for the Secretary of State's Office say the plaintiffs have not shown that Navajo vote-by-mail ballots had been rejected in the past. They also say changing deadlines now would confuse voters.

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