Feldman v. Arizona Secretary of State's Office, No. 16-16698 (9th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
Leslie Feldman and others filed suit challenging Arizona House Bill 2023 (H.B. 2023), which precludes individuals who do not fall into one of several exceptions (e.g., election officials, mail carriers, family members, household members, and specified caregivers) from collecting early ballots from another person. Plaintiff argues that this state statute violates section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 52 U.S.C. 10301, the Fourteenth Amendment, and the First Amendment because, among other things, it disproportionately and adversely impacts minorities, unjustifiably burdens the right to vote, and interferes with the freedom of association. The district court denied plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction and plaintiff filed this emergency interlocutory appeal. The court concluded that it has jurisdiction over this interlocutory appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1292(a)(1). The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding plaintiff was unlikely to succeed on her Voting Rights Act claim. In this case, the district court did not clearly err in concluding that plaintiff adduced no evidence showing that H.B. 2023 would have an impact on minorities different than the impact on non-minorities, let alone that the impact would result in less opportunity for minorities to participate in the political process as compared to non-minorities. The court concluded that the district court did not clearly err in finding that H.B. 2023 imposed a minimal burden on voters’ Fourteenth Amendment right to vote, in finding that Arizona asserted sufficiently weighty interests justifying the limitation, and in ultimately concluding that plaintiff failed to establish that she was likely to succeed on the merits of her Fourteenth Amendment challenge. The court also concluded that ballot collection is not expressive conduct implicating the First Amendment, but even if it were, Arizona has an important regulatory interest justifying the minimal burden that H.B. 2023 imposes on freedom of association. Therefore, the district court did not err in concluding that the plaintiff was unlikely to succeed on the merits of her First Amendment claim. In this case, plaintiff is not only unlikely to prevail on the merits, but, as the district court concluded, her interest in avoiding possible irreparable harm does not outweigh Arizona’s and the public’s mutual interests in the enforcement of H.B. 2023 pending final resolution of this case. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction.