By Daniel Stefanski |
Arizona’s leading legislative Republicans are taking the state’s Secretary of State to court in advance of the 2024 election cycle.
On Wednesday, the State Senate Republican Caucus announced that President Warren Petersen and House Speaker Ben Toma filed a challenge in Maricopa County Superior Court over the recently published Elections Procedures Manual (EPM), “requesting the court throw out a number of provisions in the EPM, which violate or conflict with current Arizona election laws.”
“Both the Secretary and our Governor have a track record of not following the law. As a result, I’m taking action to protect the integrity of our elections,” said President Petersen. “This reckless EPM opens the door to unlawful activity and undermines the voter confidence measures Republican lawmakers have implemented over the years.”
Toma added, “The Arizona Legislature is taking steps necessary to protect the integrity of Arizona’s elections…. Secretary Fontes has exceeded his jurisdiction, using the EPM to exercise lawmaking powers that do not belong to him. Our lawsuit aims to halt this overreach and nullify the unlawful provisions in the manual to ensure a fair and lawful electoral process for all Arizonans.”
The lawsuit, which was filed by attorneys of Statecraft PLLC and Snell & Wilmer L.L.P., asked the Superior Court for a preliminary injunction prohibiting the implementation or enforcement of the 2023 EPM to the extent it purports to:
- Allow county recorders to merely move to inactive status – rather than cancel the registrations of – voters who affirmatively stated on juror questionnaires that they do not reside in the relevant county and have not responded within 35 days to a notice from the county recorder;
- Prohibit county recorders from relying on information provided by third parties in determining whether there is reason to believe a registered voter is not a United States citizen;
- Delay implementation of statutorily required maintenance of the active early voting list until January 2027;
- Excuse mistakes or errors in the statutorily required registrations of paid or out-of-state ballot measure petition circulators;
- Compel county boards of supervisors to reflexively vote to adopt only the returns provided by the election official when conducting a canvass; and
- Authorize the Secretary of State to certify a statewide canvass that consists of returns of fewer than fifteen counties.
The legislative Republicans will have stiff opposition in court from the trio of statewide Democrats who were responsible for producing and approving this EPM: Secretary of State Adrian Fontes, Governor Katie Hobbs, and Attorney General Kris Mayes. When Fontes issued the 2023 EPM at the end of last year, he said, “Free, fair and secure elections have been this group’s commitment to the voter from the very beginning. This is what happens when a committed group of leaders comes together to serve their community. It’s good for our democracy and it’s good for Arizona.”
Governor Katie Hobbs, who preceded Fontes, said, “Partisan politics should have no role in how we run our elections. This EPM builds on the 2019 EPM and 2021 draft EPM from my tenure as Secretary of State and will ensure dedicated public servants from across the state will have the guidelines they need to administer free and fair elections. Together, we can protect our democracy and make sure every Arizonan has the opportunity to have their voice heard.”
As Secretary of State, Hobbs was required to finalize the EPM in 2021, but a divided government shared with Republican Governor Doug Ducey and Attorney General Mark Brnovich stymied the quest to secure a green light for the manual. Hobbs and Brnovich were also mired in an ongoing political feud, which resulted in legal bar charges that the Secretary of State brought against the state’s top prosecutor and several of his attorneys. After receiving Hobbs’ updated manual, Brnovich sued the SOS “to compel her production of a lawful EPM.” Brnovich alleged that “the SOS failed to provide the Governor and Attorney General with a lawful manual by October 1, 2021, as required, and instead included nearly one-hundred pages of provisions not permitted under the EPM statute.” The challenge from the former Attorney General was rendered unsuccessful, and the state was forced to revert to the previous cycle’s EPM (2019) to govern the 2022 races.
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.