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AG warns Washington man not to harvest ballots in AZ

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The Attorney General’s Office is sending a warning letter to a firm in the state of Washington that is offering to provide what amounts, at least for the moment, to illegal “ballot harvesting” in Arizona.

Jennifer Wright who heads the agency’s Elections Integrity Unit sent a “cease and desist” letter Friday to Ted Blaszak, founder and chief executive of Initiative & Referendum Campaign Management Services.

He sent out emails through Constant Contact saying that many mail ballots will be left on the kitchen table.

“Make sure your votes make it into the ballot box,” the email states, offering “an army of ballot retrieval specialists” who will go to the door of targeted voters and collect their unmailed ballots.

But Wright told Blaszak the services he is offering to Arizona candidates and organizations amounts to illegally soliciting them to commit a felony. And she gave him until 10 a.m. Monday to confirm that he won’t do that anymore.

The letter — and the Arizona law — apparently came as a surprise to Blaszak.

“I was unaware of that,” he told Capitol Media Services. “Oh, my.”

It wasn’t always that way.

Political and civil groups had for years gone into neighborhoods, asking people if they had returned their ballots and, if not, offering to take it to polling places on their behalf. That is because there comes a point at which it’s too late to put an early ballot into the mail and expect it to be delivered on time.

That changed in 2016 when the Republican-controlled legislature voted to outlaw the practice. Supporters argued it created too many opportunities for mischief, though they could not cite a single confirmed incident where a ballot was altered or did not get delivered.

Blaszak said his emails were not aimed at anyone specifically in Arizona but just simply an effort to start up a new business.

“I have had no intention of violating Arizona’s laws,” he said. But Blazak said that, based on the letter, he won’t be offering his services to Arizonans.

It may very well be, however, that what he is offering will turn out to be legal.

In a divided ruling earlier this year, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals voided the ban, concluding that GOP lawmakers enacted it with the goal of suppressing minority votes. But the judges agreed to leave the law on the books while Wright’s boss, Attorney General Mark Brnovich, asks the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn that ruling and allow the law to remain on the books.

The justices have not yet decided whether to hear the appeal.

 

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