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Appeals Court Allows Arizona Ballot Collection

Candidates battling to win Arizona 2:32

A federal appeals court ruled Friday that Arizona cannot enforce a recently passed law that makes it a crime for political parties to collect and turn in ballots filled out by early voters.

Late Friday, Arizona asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the decision.

Known as ballot harvesting, it's been an important part of the Democratic Party's get-out-the-vote effort in the state, especially in rural areas among Hispanic, Native American and African American voters.

When the law was passed earlier this year, the Clinton campaign, the Democratic Party and others went to court, claiming the law hit minority groups disproportionately hard. Lower courts turned them down, finding that the state had a legitimate interest in preventing the occurrence or the perception of absentee voter fraud.

Related: Polls: Trump Ahead in Arizona and Texas, Deadlocked in Georgia

But an 11-member panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco voted Friday to let the practice continue. The judges noted that the Supreme Court discourages last-minute decisions that affect the election. But the appeals court said Friday's order "does not involve any change at all to the actual election process. That process will continue unaltered," it said.

"The only effect is on third party ballot collectors, whose efforts to collect legitimate ballots will not be criminalized, pending our review. No one else in the electoral process is affected. And no electoral process is affected."

The state asked the U.S. Supreme Court to let it enforce the law, which it said is nearly identical to provisions in 14 other states. Barring enforcement of the law at this late stage "simply makes no sense and risks significant electoral confusion," its appeal said.

Early voting in Arizona lasts 27 days and ends Friday, but absentee ballots can be turned in any time before the polls close on Tuesday.