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Arizona Attorney General wants election access decision placed on hold

PHOENIX (AP) — Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich has asked the Supreme Court to keep in place an Arizona law that prohibits voters from delivering other people's mail ballots to the polls.

Political organizations and Native American tribes would previously collect mail-in ballots and drop them off at precincts before or on election day, but state lawmakers banned the practice in 2016, groups said.

The practice was particularly useful for elderly living in rural areas.

Brnovich's request comes less than a week after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the policy is illegal and violates the Voting Rights Act, officials said.

Some Democrats have argued the policy disproportionately affected Native American, Hispanic, African American and other voters in Arizona who have poor mail service.

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Some Republican legislators have argued that the practice of ballot harvesting leaves elections vulnerable to fraud. 

"The Ninth Circuit took the unusual step of overruling multiple previous rulings in the State's favor," Brnovich said. "Thereby rejecting Arizona's authority to secure its elections and discourage potential voter fraud."

The ruling also deemed a separate policy illegal that called for discarding the entire ballot of residents who vote in the wrong precinct, rather than counting votes for races in which the voter was eligible to participate, court officials said. A hearing is scheduled for Feb. 5.

Brnovich intends to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court, but wants the appeals judges to hold off on formally sending the case back to a lower court, he said.

"I opposed this law when it was being considered by the Legislature, and nothing has changed since then. The court made the right call for voters in this state," Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said. "I hope the attorney general's office recognizes that this issue is a red herring that undermines confidence in our democracy."