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Lawyers Fight Out Election Lawsuits On Final Weekend Of The Campaign

The decisions sent Democratic and Republican lawyers scrambling, sending a case out of Arizona to the US Supreme Court and leading Donald Trump's presidential campaign to fight against an order that it says would violate people's First Amendment rights in Ohio.

Last updated on November 5, 2016, at 1:33 p.m. ET

Posted on November 4, 2016, at 6:52 p.m. ET

Voters cast their ballots during early voting in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Chris Keane / Reuters

Voters cast their ballots during early voting in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Federal courts on Friday issued a series of rulings affecting election laws in four heavily contested states in the presidential election: Arizona, Nevada, North Carolina, and Ohio.

The decisions sent Democratic and Republican lawyers scrambling, sending a case out of Arizona to the US Supreme Court and leading Donald Trump's presidential campaign to fight against an order that it says would violate people's First Amendment rights in Ohio.

A deeply divided 6-5 decision from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals barred Arizona from enforcing a law that would make third-party collection of early voting ballots a felony.

The ruling, if it stands, allows someone other than the voter himself or herself to collect early vote ballots from several voters and then submit them all to the board of elections at once. This is sometimes referred to as "ballot harvesting" — efforts to ensure that potential voters actual cast a ballot.

On Friday evening, Arizona and the Arizona Republican Party jointly asked the Supreme Court, through a request to Justice Anthony Kennedy, to reverse the 9th Circuit's decision and allow continued enforcement of the law. Soon thereafter, Kennedy requested a response to the request by 9 a.m. Eastern Time Saturday. Here is the response from the plaintiffs in the case — including the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign — opposing the stay request.

[UPDATE: The Supreme Court effectively reversed the 9th Circuit's injunction, putting it on hold by granting a stay on Saturday morning that will last through this election. More here: Supreme Court Attempts To Slow Flood Of Last-Minute Election Litigation.]

In a second ruling on Arizona election laws, however, the appeals court split 7-4 to allow continued enforcement of a law that bars the counting of a voters' ballot when the person votes in the wrong precinct, even when the ballot filled out by the voter includes races or measures that the voter is qualified to vote for.

It was not immediately clear whether the plaintiffs would seek Supreme Court review of that ruling.

In Ohio, a federal district court barred several parties — including the presidential campaigns, as well as Roger Stone Jr. and his "Stop the Steal" effort — from engaging in any voter intimidation efforts. US District Court Judge James Gwin added "groups associated with the Clinton for Presidency campaign" to the list of those covered by the order from what had been requested. The Ohio Republican Party, whom Democrats had sought to include in the order, were excluded.

Democrats brought the challenge, seeking to stop efforts perceived as "prevent[ing] minority voters from voting in the 2016 election." The order, in part, bars the presidential campaigns and Stone and Stop the Steal from hindering would-be voters from getting to a polling place, interrogating or harassing voters or would-be voters, or taking photographs of voters or their vehicles "at or around" a polling location.

The Trump campaign announced Friday that it will appeal the order — requesting a stay of the injunction early Saturday morning based on the breadth of the order and "the loss of core First Amendment protections." The Trump campaign also asked for the entire 6th Circuit to consider the case initially as a full court, asking the appeals court to skip the step of having a three-judge panel consider the stay request.

Similar lawsuits in other states have been unsuccessful. One was rejected in Arizona on Friday night and a third such injunction request is pending in Nevada as to Stone and Stop the Steal but was denied as to the Trump campaign and state Republican Party, following a hearing Friday.

Finally, in North Carolina, a federal district court ordered officials there to reverse or otherwise alleviate the effects of several counties' recent voter roll purges in a lawsuit brought by the North Carolina NAACP.

It was not immediately clear whether there would be further appeals or attempted appeals in the North Carolina case.

This is a developing news story. Please check back at BuzzFeed News for the latest developments.

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