The Arizona Republican Party (AZGOP) urged Attorney General Mark Brnovich to investigate Governor-elect Katie Hobbs’ role in censorship of online speech.
The AZGOP asked Brnovich to determine whether Hobbs violated federal or state laws by using state resources in coordination with the Biden administration to remove posts on her office’s behalf. They further requested that Brnovich obtain the entire trove of communications between the secretary of state’s office and Twitter.
As the Arizona Daily Independent reported, court filings in the case Missouri v. Biden revealed that the secretary of state’s office used a middle man of sorts to censor online speech: the Center for Internet Security (CIS).
CIS is led by a former Obama administration official, and has received hundreds of millions in federal grants and contracts over the past two decades.
Several days after discovery of Hobbs’ arrangement to moderate online speech, Hobbs called on Arizonans during the statewide canvass certifying the election to suppress election misinformation and disinformation.
As of press time, Brnovich hasn’t issued a public statement on social media or by press release to address the AZGOP’s request. AZ Free News requested comment; the attorney general’s office didn’t respond by press time.
While Hobbs hasn’t addressed the controversy over her office’s moderation of online speech, her incoming chief of staff and former assistant secretary of state, Allie Bones, issued a statement to multiple mainstream media outlets defending the arrangement.
Bones told reporters that it was the job of governments, including the secretary of state’s office, to purge the public square of perceived misinformation and disinformation. Bones added that the CIS arrangement was a normal one between governments and social media companies. The chief of staff insisted that their actions weren’t silencing dissent.
“One of the ways we [make sure that voters are informed] is by working to counter disinformation online that can confuse voters,” stated Bones. “This is yet another example of conspiracy theorists trying to create chaos and confusion by casting doubt on our election system. It’s unfair to Arizona voters and it’s harmful to our democracy.”
Earlier this week, the Republican National Committee (RNC) and Republican Party of Arizona (RPAZ) filed two lawsuits against Maricopa County over alleged election transparency violations and unnecessary poll worker burdens. Early voting for the general election begins next Wednesday, and there’s about a month until Election Day.
In a joint statement, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and RPAZ Chairwoman Kelli Ward expressed concern that the county’s actions would shut poll workers out of the election process.
“With midterms just 34 days away, Arizonans deserve basic transparency about how their elections will be conducted,” stated the two women. “This legal offensive is the latest step in Republicans’ ongoing efforts to promote free, fair, and transparent elections in Arizona.”
The lawsuits concern the GOP’s unfulfilled records requests pertaining to poll worker staffing and the county staffing more Democratic than Republican poll workers for the primary election: 857 to 712. The RNC expressed concern that 11 vote centers at the time had no Republican poll workers, and that less than 30 percent of Central Counting Place Boards workers were Republicans while nearly 50 percent were Democrats.
The first lawsuit contended that Maricopa County wasn’t fulfilling records requests . The RNC documented that they submitted their first records request on September 9, then a follow-up records request on September 29 asking for records not fulfilled within their initial request. The lawsuit claimed that the county provided an indirect fulfillment of the initial request: the county forwarded the RNC a copy of an email originally sent from elections day and emergency voting director Scott Jarrett to a third party, which contained “narrative information” and addressed some, but not all, of the issues inquired about by the RNC.
Apart from that email, the lawsuit claimed that the county hadn’t provided all of the public records within both requests.
The second lawsuit contended that Maricopa County violated the state’s Equal Access Statutes and the Election Procedures Manual (EPM) during the primary election, and that the county would likely commit further violations for the upcoming general election. The GOP groups declared that the county established onerous working conditions for this election year: up to 14-hour work days throughout the early voting period, including weekends; a lack of a “bullpen” of election workers to backfill “foreseeable attritions” of the “inhospitable work conditions.”
According to that lawsuit, these working conditions caused over 500 election workers to quit their positions before the primary election. The lawsuit requested that the county reform its working conditions in order to align with election law and the EPM.
“Maricopa County nevertheless failed to meet the requirements of the Equal Access Statutes and the equal representation requirements of the EPM during the 2022 primary election,” stated the lawsuit.
On Wednesday, Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer and Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates dismissed the RNC-RPAZ lawsuits as a “political stunt.” Richer and Gates insisted that it was “absurd” that they, as registered Republicans, would attempt to keep Republicans out of elections. In contradiction to what the second lawsuit stated, Richer and Gates claimed that the lawsuits don’t allege violation of election laws or procedures.
“We contact everyone on the lists the parties provide us,” stated the pair. “Maricopa County’s temporary election worker hiring practices ensure bipartisan representation throughout the election process and follow requirements established in state law and the Election Procedures Manual.”
The county also conflicted with the RNC’s timeline of its records request, contending that the RNC filed its records request on Monday.
Richer projected that the lawsuit would end in another legal victory for Maricopa County, adding to their current winning streak.