PHOENIX (AP) — A judge in a lawsuit that alleges Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan is failing to update voter registration addresses for certain people has rejected a request to send mailers to thousands of voters saying their registration may be out of date.
U.S. District Judge James Teilborg said in a ruling Tuesday that voting-rights advocates didn’t show that anyone had been disenfranchised by Reagan’s alleged failure to update voter registration records in cases where people have informed motor vehicle offices they have new addresses. A federal law from the 1990s allows people to register to vote at motor vehicle offices.
The judge ruled the League of Women Voters of Arizona and two other groups that filed the lawsuit wouldn’t be harmed if such letters weren’t sent to voters. Instead, Teilborg said Reagan’s office would have to pay an estimated $276,000 to send a mailer and new voter registration forms to voters who have different addresses for motor-vehicle and voter-registration purposes.
The judge noted the logistical challenges of completing such a large-scale effort before the Nov. 6 general election and said last-minute notices would likely create confusion among voters.
Teilborg also faulted the groups for not filing the lawsuit until mid-August, when they knew for more than a year about the issues in the lawsuit.
The groups said filing a lawsuit any sooner would have sunk their negotiations with state officials in hopes of resolving the matter. Teilborg rejects the explanations.
The groups are concerned that the lack of automatic updates of voter registration addresses to match updated motor-vehicle addresses will cause voters to be registered at incorrect addresses.
Lawyers for Reagan had said the groups may have found a technical violation of the federal National Voter Registration Act, but they can’t show their members have been harmed.
“We are pleased that the judge agreed with us that sending out about 380,000 postcards letting people know about the changes in addresses would do more harm than good,” Matt Roberts, a spokesman for the secretary of state’s office.
Eric Spencer, state elections director in Reagan’s office, said the state is making the changes that the groups are seeking, but emphasized those changes won’t be completed until next year.
Stuart Naifeh, one of the attorneys pressing the lawsuit against Reagan, said the ruling was deeply flawed, but the groups haven’t yet decided whether to file an appeal.
“Voters should go out there and check their registration to make sure they are update to date, since the secretary of state is not going to do anything about it,” Naifeh said.
Teilborg said two members of the League of Women Voters of Arizona are identified in court records as having updated their address for motor vehicle purposes but unwittingly didn’t update their voter registration address. The two voters, however, were informed of the oversight before trying to vote with an outdated address.
The judge ruled the groups failed to show Reagan has the power on her own to adopt new rules for how motor vehicle offices process voter registrations, adding instead that county recorders — who weren’t sued in this case — are responsible for updating voter registration addresses.