State Sued Over Alleged Illegality Of Early Ballot Signature Verification Process

State Sued Over Alleged Illegality Of Early Ballot Signature Verification Process

By Corinne Murdock |

The state is facing a lawsuit filed Monday over an alleged violation of state law with the early ballot signature verification process outlined in the secretary of state’s Election Procedures Manual (EPM). The plaintiffs requested special action relief due to an alleged lack of an equally plain, speedy, and adequate legal alternative remedy for their grievance. 

Statute requires that envelope signatures match those on the voter’s registration record. If not, the county recorder must contact the voter and confirm that the voter personally completed and signed the early ballot affidavit. 

However, the current EPM — written by Gov. Katie Hobbs in her former capacity as the secretary of state — instructs county recorders to validate early ballot affidavits if they determine the signature matches any signature in any election-related document available to them. The lawsuit argued that the EPM’s allowed materials aren’t legally considered “registration records” and therefore not lawful comparative references for conducting signature validation. 

“[T]he signatures encompassed within the EPM’s errant instruction cannot be used either to effectuate the registration of an individual or to lawfully amend an existing registration,” stated the lawsuit.

Arizona law doesn’t explicitly define the term “registration record.” However, the lawsuit argued that the natural understanding of the term relates to a document effectuating or amending voter registration that contains voter-supplied information required by federal and Arizona law, as well as a signed certification attesting to the provided information. 

“A properly executed and submitted registration form, as may be amended and updated by the registrant from time to time, ‘constitute[s] an official public record of the registration of the elector,’” stated the lawsuit. “Accordingly, the ‘record of the registration of the elector — i.e., her “registration record,” consists of the complete and facially valid federal and state forms submitted by that individual, and any amendments thereto made by the submission of new forms, an early ballot request form, a response to an Active Early Voting List notice, or a provisional ballot envelope.”

Citizens may register to vote using forms provided by the federal or state government; both forms require full name, residential address, date of birth, a government-issued ID number, political party affiliation if applicable, and a signed, sworn attestation of eligibility (including U.S. citizenship). An Arizona voter registration form also requires telephone number, location of birth, occupation, father’s last name or mother’s maiden name, age, proof of citizenship, and statements affirming residency, status of any other existing registration, and any absence of disqualifying felony conviction. 

The lawsuit stated that the named defendant, Secretary of State Adrian Fontes, has gone beyond his lawful jurisdiction and gone against statute by upholding Hobbs’ EPM. Fontes refused to heed lawmakers’ requests to reject Hobbs’ EPM earlier this year. 

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the Arizona Free Enterprise Club (AFEC), a nonprofit social welfare corporation specializing in limited government that includes election integrity; Restoring Integrity and Trust in Elections, a Virginia-based nonprofit social welfare corporation specializing in election integrity; and Dwight Kadar, a Yavapai County resident and elector. 

AFEC President Scot Mussi told AZ Free News that Hobbs’ EPM essentially rewrote state law to make invalid voting easier. 

“The current election procedures manual adopted by the Secretary of State has rewritten state law regarding signature verification for mail-in ballots,” said Mussi. “The result is a process that invites questionable methods and opportunities for abuse during the signature review process. It’s time for the courts to bring this illegal EPM practice to a halt.” 

Early ballot voters aren’t required to prove their identity through documents or additional personal information, like a birthdate or Social Security number. The sole validator for early ballot voters is the affidavit form signature on the exterior of the envelope housing the ballot. By signing the affidavit form, a voter attests under penalty of perjury that he has not voted and will not vote in any other jurisdiction, that he has registered to vote in the correct county, that he understands that multiple voting is a felony, and that he personally voted the ballot enclosed and signed the affidavit. 

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

Senate Election Audit May Not Include Promised Early Ballot Signature Verification

Senate Election Audit May Not Include Promised Early Ballot Signature Verification

By Terri Jo Neff |

Since shortly after Nov. 3, 2020, some of the most serious allegations about Maricopa County’s handling of the General Election has included not only fake ballots and switched voter counts, but also that some employees did not follow proper protocols when verifying voter signatures on the 1.9 million early ballot affidavits.

There was even testimony in at least one election challenge lawsuit about the amount of discretion employees of the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office had in deciding which of the early ballots to accept during the signature verification phase.

Since then, one selling point for the Senate’s current audit of Maricopa County’s election process has been the chance for a “full forensic audit” that would include comparing affidavit signatures to the voters’ registration files. AZ Free News has verified that the Senate subpoenas commanded county officials to turn over images of the early ballot envelopes.

“I can confirm that we complied and the Senate is in possession of those images,” said Megan Gilbertson, Communications Director for the Maricopa County Elections Department.

But questions are now being raised about whether Senate President Karen Fann included an audit of Maricopa County’s early ballot signature verification process in her deal with audit contractor Cyber Ninjas or its three subcontractors.

Last Thursday, the Senate’s audit liaison, Ken Bennett, said the plan is to audit at least “some” of the early ballot signatures. However, others close to the audit contend that looking at those signatures is beyond the scope of what the contractors have been asked to do.

Which raises the question of who has the 1.9 million envelope images which Maricopa County turned over in compliance with the subpoena. And who else has access to those images in light of signature confidentiality requirements in state law and the fact those signatures are quite valuable to identity thieves.

Even if Bennett ensures a sampling of signatures are audited, he will be under a time crunch, as an attorney for Cyber Ninjas told a judge last week that audit operations must be done at Veterans Memorial Coliseum on May 14.

Another problem for Bennett and the auditors is figuring out a sufficient sample size to provide a reliable result. Previous testimony about the signature verification process noted that it is important to look at ballot envelopes received by the recorder’s office on various days and to have envelopes which were verified by a variety of employees.

Bennett is currently in a self-imposed media blackout with local journalists, although he did find time Monday to record an interview for the Arizona Republican Party.

A lawsuit filed last week by the Arizona Democratic Party and Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Gallardo (in his personal capacity as a registered voter) will go before Judge Daniel Martin of the Maricopa County Superior Court on Tuesday. The lawsuit seeks to stop the audit until the Senate promises its contractors will comply with state law and the Arizona Elections Procedures Manual.

Meanwhile, a petition for special action filed with the Arizona Supreme Court by Fann and the other defendants is a second track for their attempts to have the Dems’ legal challenge dismissed.