In a sudden email late Wednesday night, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs’ office informed candidates that their signature-gathering system, E-Qual, would be suspended once the Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC) certifies the 2022 maps. Until the system reflects the 2022 maps, candidates may only collect signatures based on 2020 maps — meaning any 2022 district signatures may be invalid. The secretary of state anticipates that by March 5, E-Qual will be unavailable entirely to allow counties to update their data.
“To allow counties to import updated files into the system, E-Qual will be suspended for all Legislative and Congressional candidates at that time and will likely remain unavailable through the remainder of the filing period,” warned the secretary of state’s office.
E-Qual allows candidates to more easily gather signatures to qualify for the ballot, allowing voters to sign for a candidate wherever they can access the internet.
Arizona Free Enterprise Club President Scot Mussi told AZ Free News that this was a failure on the secretary of state’s part.
“They had months to prepare for the district changes,” said Mussi. “Maybe if they had spent less time rewriting state law through the election manual they would’ve been more prepared.”
AZ Free News inquired with the secretary of state’s office why they hadn’t adjusted their system operations accordingly in anticipation of the 2022 redistricting. We also inquired how Hobbs believed this action impacted her recent initiative to ensure trust in election officials. Hobbs partnered with the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) to ensure voters get “timely, accurate information” about elections.
The secretary of state’s office didn’t respond to AZ Free News by press time. However, spokesperson Murphy Hebert told the Arizona Mirror that their office wasn’t unprepared: rather, their office made the decision to suspend the system because of the new district maps, and pointed out December guidance sent to candidates advising them to not update their profiles to reflect the new districts in E-Qual.
“The notion that this is happening late in the game is a bit disingenuous. From day one, the office has always been responsive to feedback. Based on the feedback we received, we made the decision to update the plan,” said Hebert. “We’re trying to implement the best approach that gives both candidates and voters access, with the alternative being the system going offline entirely.”
According to the late-night notification email to candidates written by Elections Filing Manager Joshua Doty, legislative and congressional candidates won’t be able to collect signatures from voters once counties begin implementing the 2022 maps in the system. Doty blamed redistricting on the system shutdown; he advised candidates they could use paper petitions to collect signatures in the meantime, and that they should consult their campaign or legal counsel for further advice.
“Because redistricting remains in progress, Legislative and Congressional candidates are currently only able to use E-Qual to collect signatures from voters in the candidate’s 2020 district. After the [IRC] certifies the 2022 maps, counties will begin working toward implementing the 2022 maps into the statewide voter registration system. To allow counties to import updated files into the system, E-Qual will be suspended for all legislative and congressional candidates at that time and will likely remain unavailable through the remainder of the filing period,” wrote Doty. “Each candidate should consult their campaign or legal counsel to determine the best option for their situation.”
Doty further warned that those who wish to continue collecting signatures from their 2020 district shouldn’t designate their 2022 district on their campaign profile. Those who wish to update their district should resign to the fact that they’ll have to collect paper petitions for both their 2020 and 2022 districts.
“If you designate a 2022 district, then you will not have access to the E-Qual system until the 2022 maps have been imported into the statewide voter registration database, which likely will not happen before the close of the candidate filing period on April 4,” stated Doty. “However, any candidates who want to continue using E-Qual to collect signatures from voters in their 2020 district should not update their district at this time.”
Doty also reminded candidates of two upcoming webinars advising on procedures for the 2022 filing cycle.
In a press release response, gubernatorial candidate Steve Gaynor lambasted Hobbs for giving candidates this hurdle on short notice.
“The E-Qual collapse is an absolute injustice,” stated Gaynor. “It makes it harder for Arizonans to run for office, and impedes the ability of our citizens to participate in the democratic process. Secretary Hobbs has failed to ensure the integrity of our elections by creating roadblocks to participation, and her incompetence shows plainer each day. This cannot stand – Katie Hobbs needs to get her act together and the E-Qual system must be fixed immediately.”
The final push on Arizona’s redistricting maps is upon us. And for the most part, things are getting better. The maps are reflecting the community input that the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission has received over the past three months, and that’s important. After all, this process only takes place every 10 years, so whatever maps are drawn will determine your district for the next decade.
On top of that, the maps are also close to fitting the criteria that the commission must follow in the Arizona Constitution. This is good. And this is the direction the maps should be headed.
So, naturally, the Democrats are trying everything they can to game the system. And this time they are doing it through a group called the Arizona Latino Coalition for Fair Redistricting.
When the five members of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC) meet on Monday, they will discuss their differing opinions on what the new boundaries should be for Arizona’s 30 legislative districts and 9 congressional districts for the next decade.
Arizona’s current district boundaries in use since 2011 include seven legislative districts and two congressional districts with a Hispanic-majority population. The AIRC has looked at dozens of public-proposed maps, as well as draft maps proposed by the commissioners.
Yet despite the U.S. Census showing more Latinos were added to Arizona’s population than any other demographic, the number of Hispanic-majority districts is likely to not change. And that, according to AIRC observers, is due to the efforts—and political influence—of the Arizona Latino Coalition for Fair Redistricting.
But the Coalition does not appear to be interested solely in amplifying the political power of Arizona’s Hispanic population. Instead, it appears to only be interested in the segment of that population who are presumed be Democrats.
In fact, the group’s Statewide co-chairs—Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Gallardo and Pima County Supervisor Adelita Grijalva—are both Democrats, as are the five regional co-chairs.
The Coalition also appears to be receiving strategic advice from DJ Quinlan, who worked closely with the AIRC’s Democratic members during the 2011 redistricting effort. Quinlan, a former top official of the Arizona Democratic Party, has admitted to an association with the Arizona Latino Coalition for Fair Redistricting.
Critics say the Coalition’s interest comes at the price of ignoring an increasingly vocal and involved group—conservative Hispanics. And those conservatives are calling out the hypocrisy of folks like Gallardo and Grijalva for appearing to speak for all Latinos.
“Hispanics are the fastest growing part of the Republican Party and make up quite a large segment of Independent voters as well,” Steve Montenegro told AZ Free News. “The idea that all Hispanics vote the same way is both stupid and inherently racist.”
Originally from El Salvador, Montenegro has long been a voice for conservative values and for the elimination of race-based policies. He served nearly 10 years in the Arizona House and Senate, rising to the position of House Majority Leader.
Montenegro says the fact is more minority Republicans are getting elected from a variety of districts, including majority white districts.
“Most voters don’t care about race, and it is time for our mapmaking process to remove race and ethnicity from the process, and stop grouping Americans and Arizonans on the basis of the color of our skin,” he said.
Montengro and others point to the Arizona Latino Coalition for Fair Redistricting’s initial advocacy for creating an 8th legislative district with a predominantly Hispanic population. But the group’s proposal was unceremoniously dropped.
Critics say the reason the group dumped the idea is that with so many Hispanic voters leaning to the Right, the Democratic Party leadership feared spreading Hispanic population centers among eight instead of seven legislative districts would have benefited conservative candidates instead.
“The [redistricting] process is driven by partisan goals masquerading as concerns about racial groups or communities of interest,” says Montenegro. “So the Left uses Hispanics when helpful to create Democrat districts and then suddenly no longer cares about Hispanics when it negatively impacts the number of Democrat districts they can draw. They made that obvious when the so-called Latino Coalition suddenly stopped caring about drawing more Latino districts.”
The shift away from creating an 8th Hispanic-majority legislative district also caught the attention of Sergio Arellano, who served on the Latinos for Trump coalition.
“It is incumbent on us to call out the hypocrisy and lack of authenticity of Latino groups claiming to represent us all,” says Arellano, a Veteran, a businessman, and a Latino community leader who strives to support conservative candidates and causes. “For far too long, we have allowed others to speak for a demographic as if it is a monolith.”
And although it appears the new legislative district maps will be intentionally drawn to avoid an 8th Hispanic-majority district, Arellano insists he would have embraced the opportunity provided by such a district.
“It would be an incredible experiment to have had that additional district because that would become the catalyst that tears down the narrative about Latinos being Democratic; it would serve as a platform to prove once and for all who has the best interest of the community and state at heart,” he says. “Personally, it would be a dream come true to have the opportunity to run in an all-out Hispanic district against the racist liberal Democratic Party nominees.”
The same concerns have been raised with the Arizona Latino Coalition for Fair Redistricting’s involvement in how the state’s nine Congressional districts are configured.
Under the Voting Rights Act, the new CD maps must have at least two majority Latino districts to avoid reducing the current minority status. The Coalition noted in a letter to the AIRC in October of its interest ensuring the Congressional districts were formed to “protect and enhance majority Latino districts, helping to ensure that Latino voters have the ability to elect a candidate of their choice.”
And again, the Coalition considered proposing another Hispanic-majority Congressional district “due to the growth of the Latino population in Arizona.” The group did not pursue the idea, however, in order to preserve “the voting strength of the community.”
Yet some of the draft maps submitted to the AIRC by interested parties were able to maintain two Hispanic-majority districts while splitting up some predominantly Hispanic population centers or aligning smaller Hispanic communities with traditionally Republican areas that were in closer physical proximity.
Those maps were quickly discarded, which critics contend was due to ensuring Democrats did not end up in a more competitive race. And Montenegro believes some of the Democrats involved in the redistricting effort are actually using the Voting Rights Act to undermine the political interests of conservative Hispanic voters.
“The idea that you draw a district filled with Hispanics who will then elect a Hispanic and be happy because they’re represented by a Hispanic is dumb,” he says. “The left will tell them to smile and be happy because of the ethnicity of their representation, but only actual racists care about that as opposed to the votes and ideology of their representative.”
Phoenix, AZ – The initial maps for Arizona’s redistricting process were approved on September 14, 2021, by the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC). The approved grid maps are of equal populations for the congressional and legislative districts as required by the state constitution.
Arizonans are encouraged to become involved with this next phase by utilizing the online mapping system and or by attending the public hearing sessions. Information can be found at irc.az.gov.
“We welcome the involvement and voices of all interested individuals and groups to become part of this critical process that will remain in place for the next ten years,” said Erika Neuberg, Chairwoman Independent Redistricting Commission. “With the approval of scheduled dates, times and locations, for the next round of public hearing, we will follow the State of Arizona’s COVID guidelines but also encourage those who choose not to participate in person to please go online and submit comments and maps.”
The following is the schedule of in-person public meeting sessions:
Tuesday, September 21 4:00 pm (MST) 5:00 pm (MDT)
Red Mountain Multigenerational Center
7550E. Adobe St.
Mesa, AZ 85207
Yuma Civic Center
1440 W. Desert Hills Dr.
Yuma, AZ 85365
Navajo Nation Training Center (limit 25 participants onsite) Masks Required
Morgan Blvd. Bldg. #2740
Window Rock, AZ 86515
Thursday, September 23 12:00 pm ( MST)
Scottsdale Center for the Arts
7380 E. 2nd St.,
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
777 N. Pinal Ave
Casa Grande, AZ 85122
391 E. Fry Blvd.
Sierra Vista, AZ 85635
Saturday, September 25 10:00 am (MST)
Desert Willow Conference Center
4340 E. Cotton Center Blvd.
Phoenix, AZ 850401
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
3700 Willow Creek Road
Prescott, AZ 86301
Wednesday, September 29 4:00 pm (MST)
Cactus Shadows Fine Arts Center
33606 N. 60th St.
Scottsdale, AZ 85266
Tucson Convention Center
260 S. Church Ave.
Tucson, AZ 85701
Thursday, October 7 4:00 pm (MST) 5:00 (MDT)
The Vista Center for the Arts
15660 N. Parkview Pl.
Surprise, AZ 85374
High Country Conference Center
201 W. Butler Ave.
Flagstaff, AZ 86001
Cesar Chavez Cultural Center
1015 N. Main St.
San Luis, AZ 85349
Kayenta Township Town Hall (limit 25 participants onsite) Masks required
100 N. Highway 163
Kayenta, AZ 86033
Individuals attending the in-person sessions at the main and satellite locations will have the opportunity to speak and give public comments on the grid maps. They can also complete their mapping comments online before the public meetings.