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Democratic Nat'l Comm. v. Hobbs

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

March 27, 2019, Argued and Submitted En Banc, San Francisco, California; January 27, 2020, Filed

No. 18-15845


 [*997]  W. FLETCHER, Circuit Judge:

The right to vote is the foundation of our democracy. Chief Justice Warren  [*998]  wrote in his autobiography that the precursor to one person, one vote, Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 82 S. Ct. 691, 7 L. Ed. 2d 663 (1962), was the most important case decided during his tenure as Chief Justice—a tenure that included Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483, 74 S. Ct. 686, 98 L. Ed. 873 (1954). Earl Warren, The Memoirs of Earl Warren 306 (1977). Chief Justice Warren wrote in Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 555, 84 S. Ct. 1362, 12 L. Ed. 2d 506 (1964): "The right to vote freely for the candidate of one's choice is of the essence of a democratic society, and any restrictions on that right strike at the heart of representative government." Justice Black wrote in Wesberry v. Sanders, 376 U.S. 1, 17, 84 S. Ct. 526, 11 L. Ed. 2d 481 (1964): "No right is more precious in a free country than that of having a voice in the election of those who make the laws under which, as good citizens, we must live. Other rights, even the most basic, are illusory if the right to vote is undermined."

For over a century, Arizona has repeatedly targeted its American Indian, Hispanic, and African American citizens, limiting or eliminating their ability to vote and to participate in the political process. In 2016, the Democratic National Committee and other Plaintiffs-Appellants (collectively, "DNC" or "Plaintiffs") sued Arizona's Secretary of State [**7]  and Attorney General in their official capacities (collectively, "Arizona") in federal district court.

DNC challenged, first, Arizona's policy of wholly discarding, rather than counting or partially counting, ballots cast in the wrong precinct ("out-of-precinct" or "OOP" policy); and, second, House Bill 2023 ("H.B. 2023"), a 2016 statute criminalizing the collection and delivery of another person's ballot. DNC contends that the OOP policy and H.B. 2023 violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as amended ("VRA") because they adversely and disparately affect Arizona's American Indian, Hispanic, and African American citizens. DNC also contends that H.B. 2023 violates Section 2 of the VRA and the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution because it was enacted with discriminatory intent. Finally, DNC contends that the OOP policy and H.B. 2023 violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments because they unduly burden minorities' right to vote.

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948 F.3d 989 *; 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 2470 **; 2020 WL 414448

THE DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE; DSCC, AKA Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee; THE ARIZONA DEMOCRATIC PARTY, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. KATIE HOBBS, in her official capacity as Secretary of State of Arizona; MARK BRNOVICH, Attorney General, in his official capacity as Arizona Attorney General, Defendants-Appellees, THE ARIZONA REPUBLICAN PARTY; BILL GATES, Councilman; SUZANNE KLAPP, Councilwoman; DEBBIE LESKO, Sen.; TONY RIVERO, Rep., Intervenor-Defendants-Appellees.

Subsequent History: Stay granted by Democratic Nat'l Comm. v. Hobbs, 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 4208 (9th Cir. Ariz., Feb. 11, 2020)

Stay granted by Democratic Nat'l Comm. v. Hobbs, 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 16286 (9th Cir. Ariz., May 21, 2020)

US Supreme Court certiorari granted by Ariz. Republican Party v. Democratic Nat. Comm., 2020 U.S. LEXIS 3703 (U.S., Oct. 2, 2020)

US Supreme Court certiorari granted by Brnovich v. Democratic Nat'l Comm., 2020 U.S. LEXIS 3707 (U.S., Oct. 2, 2020)

Prior History:  [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Arizona. D.C. No. 2:16-cv-01065-DLR. Douglas L. Rayes, District Judge, Presiding.

Democratic Nat'l Comm. v. Reagan, 329 F. Supp. 3d 824, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 78833, 2018 WL 2191664 (D. Ariz., May 10, 2018)

Disposition: REVERSED and REMANDED.


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Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, Clearly Erroneous Review, Civil Rights Law, Voting Rights, Voting Rights Act, Failure to Allow Voting, De Novo Review, Protection of Rights, Vote Dilution, Voting Rights Act, Improper Tabulation, Constitutional Law, Elections, Terms & Voting, Race-Based Voting Restrictions, Racial Discrimination, Absentee Ballots, Elections, Terms & Voting, Evidence, Burdens of Proof, Allocation, Interference With Voting Rights, Voting Rights, Types of Evidence, Circumstantial Evidence