People wash their hands by the entrance to Sapphire of Tucson Nursing and Rehab on May 1, 2020. (Photo: David Wallace/The Republic)
Election officials in Arizona can use videoconferencing to help some voters confined to hospitals, nursing homes or living with severe disabilities cast their ballots, a judge ruled Monday, rejecting calls to declare the new pandemic-era practice illegal.
Attorney General Mark Brnovich asked the court to strike down plans adopted by the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office and Arizona Secretary of State’s Office for limited “virtual” voting assistance, arguing that state law does not allow anyone to cast a ballot by video.
Gov. Doug Ducey also opposed the policies, contending that state law requires officials provide such services in person.
But in a ruling that reflected how unusual this election year is, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Randall H. Warner found that videoconferencing may be necessary for some voters with very particular circumstances who would otherwise have to choose between protecting themselves from COVID-19 or forgoing their right to participate in the electoral process.
“Federal law does not allow Arizona to impose on a disabled voter the choice between voting and protecting their health,” he wrote.
The judge warned, however, that his ruling “does not mean the County Recorder is free to use video voting whenever he wants or for any voter who asks.”
Still, Fontes declared victory.
“This is a win for accessibility,” the county recorder said in a statement. “We will continue to provide this option to the most vulnerable population of Maricopa County voters when necessary, ensuring compliance with all applicable law.”
A longstanding practice and COVID-19
The legal battle over the practice began in earnest last week but stems from longstanding policies for assisting a small portion of the state’s voters who are physically unable