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Appeals Court Takes Another Look at Arizona Ballot Collection

A federal appeals court said late Wednesday it will take another look at a recently passed Arizona law that makes it a crime for political parties to collect and turn in ballots filled out by early voters.

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 for Hispanic, Native American, and African American voters.

Without the ability to collect ballots and deliver them for voters, the party said it would have to focus instead on providing transportation to the polls, which would divert resources from other voter outreach operations.

Dems outpacing GOP in early voting 5:26

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. In late September, a federal judge turned down their request to block its enforcement.

Related: SCOTUS Rejects Ohio Democrats' Push for Early Voting Week

Federal District Court Judge Douglas Rayes said he could find no evidence of a disparity in the law's impact between minority and non-minority voters. And he said the state had a legitimate interest in preventing the occurrence or the perception of absentee voter fraud.

In a 2-1 ruling, a panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco agreed with the judge and declined to block the law. But the next day, October 29, the full court invited lawyers on both sides to weigh in on whether the case should be reheard.

Five of the judges on the appeals court dissented, calling the decision a serious mistake and saying it "risks present chaos and future confusion."

Writing for the dissenters, Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain said there are risks to taking a case of this complexity so soon before the election. "Sadly, a majority of this court has ignored such dangers in its unseemly rush to overrule, by any means necessary, a five-day old opinion.

"I fear instead a shoot-first, ask questions later approach that will haunt us for years to come," he said.

Early voting in Arizona lasts 27 days and ends on Friday, November 4, but absentee ballots can be turned in any time before the polls close on Tuesday.