Attorney General Asks Cochise Attorney to Investigate Secretary of State

April 2, 2022

By Corinne Murdock |

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich requested Cochise County Attorney Brian McIntyre to investigate the two-week suspension of the secretary of state’s signature-gathering system for candidates, E-Qual. The March 17 suspension lasted until Wednesday, five days before the April 4 deadline, disabling sections of the system for legislative and congressional candidates to submit their ballot-qualifying signatures.

Secretary of State Katie Hobbs warned candidates in January that she would suspend the system up until the signature-gathering deadline once the Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC) certified the new district maps. The forewarned shutdown not only caused backlash due to its impact on candidates’ signature-gathering efforts to qualify for the ballot — Attorney General Mark Brnovich warned Hobbs that such a shutdown would be illegal. In a letter, Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Wright warned Hobbs that she could face a class 3 misdemeanor — up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine — for not fulfilling her lawful duties, or even a felony with up to a year in prison for taking down E-Qual.

Upon receipt of the letter, Hobbs sued to prevent any prosecution. The courts didn’t take her side. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Joan Sinclair ruled that Wright’s letter wasn’t legal action, but rather a notification of Hobbs’ legal duties. 

“The letter itself notifies the Secretary that in the [attorney general’s] opinion, taking E-Qual offline during the candidate filing period would be ‘contrary to law.’ It further informs the Secretary that when a duty is imposed by Title 16 on a public officer, knowingly failing or refusing to perform that duty can be either a class 6 felony or a class 3 misdemeanor,” wrote Sinclair. “While the Secretary clearly viewed this as a threat, the letter did not promise or guarantee prosecution and thus does not create a controversy properly before the court.”

Despite warnings from the attorney general’s office, the sections of E-Qual for legislative and congressional candidates were suspended on March 17. Two weeks passed. Then on Wednesday, just five days before the signature-gathering deadline, Hobbs announced that the legislative and congressional candidates’ sections of the system were back online. She conceded that the shutdown had to do with necessary redistricting updates. 

Just the day before, the entire E-Qual system experienced an outage anticipated to last past the April 4 deadline. Hobbs communicated that the outage was caused by a hardware malfunction. However, that unplanned outage was fixed within several hours.

The anticipated outage would’ve most heavily impacted Maricopa County attorney candidates; the former attorney, Allister Adel, resigned last Friday, giving candidates just two weeks’ notice to gather enough signatures to qualify for the election. 

Hobbs didn’t respond on social media to Brnovich’s requested investigation. Instead, the secretary of state opted to post about the International Transgender Day of Visibility.

In a statement to the Arizona Daily Star, Hobbs called Brnovich’s request to investigate her for not doing her job “ridiculous.”

“The attorney general’s continued attacks on election officials across the state for doing our jobs is ridiculous,” said Hobbs.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

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