A superior court judge rejected Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s complaint against Secretary of State Katie Hobbs’ election manual last Friday because he filed it too close to ongoing elections.
Yavapai Superior Court Judge John Napper expressed concern that siding with Brnovich would disrupt this year’s elections.
Napper acknowledged that Hobbs’ 2021 Elections Manual and Procedures (EPM) required editing and revision. However, he declared that Brnovich’s refusal to work with Hobbs on the proposed EPM didn’t mean that Hobbs didn’t fulfill her lawful duties, noting that Brnovich had from October 1 to December 31 to work on the EPM with Hobbs, as prescribed by statute.
“The parties’ failure to properly work with one another to improve the Secretary’s initial draft of the EMP [sic] does not mean she failed to perform a ministerial or discretionary act requiring a mandate from the Court,” wrote Napper. “At this point in the game, there is no mechanism for the Court to assist the parties in constructing an EMP [sic] which complies with A.R.S. § 16-452 within the timeline of the statute. The Complaint was filed far too late for this to occur without disrupting elections that have already begun.”
That doesn’t mean that Hobbs’ latest EPM will be used in current elections. Napper noted that election officials are following the EPM from 2019 since it was submitted and approved properly by both the governor and attorney general.
Hobbs celebrated the ruling. She characterized Brnovich’s complaint as “an attempt to rewrite the election rules” for political gain. Brnovich didn’t issue a public statement on the ruling.
Hobbs’ criticism paralleled those of opponents to her 2021 EPM, who argued that she was incorporating certain changes — such as allowing certain votes to be cast at the wrong precinct — to benefit her gubernatorial campaign.
Brnovich filed his complaint against Hobbs for the 2021 EPM at the end of April.
Current Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and former Phoenix-area television news anchor Kari Lake are nearly even in a favorability, according to a survey released Monday by Phoenix-based OH Predictive Insights (OHPI) about the top 8 candidates for the 2022 gubernatorial race.
The six-day Arizona Public Opinion Pulse survey of Arizona registered voters started July 6 and revealed Hobbs, a Democrat, rated a combined 40 percent for very or somewhat favorable. Lake, a Republican, came in at 39 percent very or somewhat favorable.
The next closest was Kimberly Lee, Arizona’s Treasurer and a Republican, with a 32 percent very or somewhat favorable rating.
In a head-to-head rating of the 5 Republican gubernatorial candidates, Lake topped Salmon with 60 percent to 51 in the very and somewhat favorable, with Yee coming in at 39 percent. Robson garnered 37 percent and Gaynor at 34 percent.
However, all 8 announced candidate have ample opportunity to generate favorable opinions among voters, according to the survey. Hobbs had a 34 percent rating for “no opinion / never heard of” while those surveyed gave Lake a 39 percent no opinion / never heard of (NHO).
The survey also shows the other 6 candidates had ratings which broke down into three groups, starting with Republicans Kimberly Yee and Matt Salmon closely matched up at 32 percent very or somewhat favorable for Yee and 31 percent for Salmon. The no opinion / NHO ratings for the two came out at 48 percent Yee and 46 percent Salmon.
The next group, Democrats Aaron Liberman and Marco Lopez, both rated at 25 percent in the favorable categories, with Lieberman at 53 percent no opinion / NHO and Lopez at 54 percent.
The last group, both Republicans, was not all that far behind, with Karrin Taylor Robson at 23 percent favorable, edging Steve Gaynor by one percentage point. Both also rated at 57 percent no opinion / NHO.
On the flip side, AZPOP found Hobbs with the highest percent of very or somewhat unfavorable rating at 27, while all 7 other candidates were at only 20 to 22 percent.
In a move strongly supported by Arizona’s 15 elected county recorders, the House Government & Elections Committee approved a bill Thursday which greatly limits the powers of the Arizona Secretary of State (SOS) when it comes to responding to and settling some election lawsuits.
HB2302 stipulates that the SOS cannot settle “or otherwise compromise” an election-related civil action without first consulting the state’s 15 county recorders if the proposed settlement materially affects a county recorder. It also gives any county recorder standing to join an election-related lawsuit and object to a settlement by putting forth evidence that the settlement is impractical or difficult to comply with.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Walt Blackman, is supported by the Arizona Association of Counties. It passed the committee on a 7 to 6 vote, and is expected to pass the House Rules Committee next week.
That, according to Cochise County Recorder David Stevens, is a good thing, as the county recorders are the people legally responsible for registering voters.
Stevens says HB2302 is “a direct result” of Secretary of State Katie Hobbs’ actions prior to the 2020 General Election when she was named in a federal lawsuit which sought to extend Arizona’s voter registration deadline past Oct. 5. Hobbs never informed the 15 recorders about the case, even as she negotiated a settlement that directly impacted the recorders and their staffs.
“The recorders who actually do voter registration were not notified of the federal court case and were not able to present a defense against the extension to Oct. 23,” Stevens told Arizona Daily Independent. “To make it worse, when the extension was later ruled ‘illegal and an abuse of discretion’ and it was thrown out, the SOS provided her opinion as to when the last day of voter registration should be.”
None of the recorders were involved in reaching that opinion, Stevens says.
Eventually the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals voided an Oct. 23 extended deadline ordered by a district judge in Phoenix. The result was a revised deadline of Oct. 15, 10 days after recorders had expected to be done with voter registration.
Stevens pointed out that because early voting began Oct. 7, the extended deadline created several problems as recorders who were facilitating actual voting were suddenly forced to handle inquiries about the ever-changed deadline and register voters for an election that was already underway.
Blackman’s bill is opposed by Secretary of State Katie Hobbs. Which disappoints Stevens.
“To be clear, NOT ONE voter has ever been registered to vote by the Secretary of State,” he said. “It is solely the function of the recorders, and not to involve the ones who actually do the work is malfeasance.”
Hobbs’ handling of the registration deadline case also got her sideways with Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who contended the SOS has no authority to bind the state or the county recorders to a change in state election law. As a result of that split, Hobbs retained private legal counsel while Brnovich vigorously defended the Oct. 5 deadline, which is set by state law since 1990 at 29 days prior to the general election.