Arizona GOP Sues Arizona Secretary of State Hobbs to Stop Unmonitored Ballot Drop Boxes, Include Signature Verification Procedures, and Even Challenges Mail-In Voting

The Arizona Republican Party (AZGOP), along with its secretary Yvonne Cahill, filed a lawsuit against Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs over more actions she took that appear to be making it easier to commit voter fraud. The AZGOP’s Application for Issuance of Writ Under Exercise of Original Jurisdiction asks the court to compel Hobbs, who is a Democrat, to include signature verification procedures in the election procedures manual and remove the language she added authorizing the setup of unmonitored ballot drop boxes, and challenges “no-excuse” early ballots as violating the Arizona Constitution.

AZGOP Chair Kelli Ward, who has been out on the forefront combating election fraud since the 2020 presidential election, told The Arizona Sun Times, “We want to make sure that our elections are secure so we can restore voter confidence and strengthen our representative republic.”

GOP Attorney Alexander Kolodin, who drafted the lawsuit, explained, “Many states with similar provisions have amended their constitutions to allow for mail-in voting. Yet in
1991, Arizona’s politicians gave us an insecure system of no- excuse mail in voting without taking this necessary step. Now Secretary Hobbs has taken this unconstitutional act and run with it, authorizing unmonitored drop boxes without any legal authority and failing to even provide lawful procedures for verifying signatures on early ballots. Enough is enough.”

Hobbs is required by law to update the state’s election procedures manual every other year, with the Arizona Attorney General’s approval, but Hobbs has refused to make the legal changes Attorney General Mark Brnovich laid out, which include eliminating a provision allowing voters to cast ballots in precincts they don’t live in. The Democratic National Committee filed a lawsuit challenging Arizona’s laws requiring voters to vote within their own precincts. Hobbs refused to defend it on behalf of Arizona, so Brnovich stepped in to defend it, all the way to the Supreme Court, where he won in Brnovich v. DNC.

According to the AZGOP’s lawsuit, Hobbs has also added a section to the election procedures manual establishing drop boxes for ballots, including unmonitored ones. The AZGOP lawsuit contends, “[S]he lacks legal authority to prescribe rules that are not authorized by statute, and no Arizona statute authorizes drop boxes in lieu of official polling places.” The Arizona Constitution provides that “the powers and duties of Secretary of State … shall be as prescribed by law.”

A.R.S. § 16-542(A) states that “[a]ny on-site early voting location or other early voting location shall require each elector to present identification … before receiving a ballot.” Drop boxes would circumvent the ID requirement. Additionally, “the legislature may not delegate this authority to the Secretary, nor may the Secretary delegate a portion of this authority to county recorders, as the EPM purports to do.”

The complaint next alleges that while Hobbs issued a Signature Verification Guide outlining procedures for verifying signatures on early ballot envelopes, she never bothered to add it to the election procedures manual, as required by A.R.S. § 16-452. “If adopted into the EPM and approved by the Governor and Attorney General, the procedures would have the force of law, and their violation would be punishable as a misdemeanor.” Since they were not added to the manual, the brief argues, “county recorders are not required to follow them.“

Finally, the complaint asks the court to “enjoin the State from enforcing Arizona’s unconstitutional absentee voting laws.” The complaint cites similarities to Kentucky’s state constitution, which a court there used to strike down mail-in voting. The Kentucky Supreme Court stated in the 1921 opinion Clark v. Nash, “[t]he only remedy is an amendment to the Constitution, which the people can have, if they wish, allowing the passage of an absent voters act.”

The brief cites multiple locations in the Arizona Constitution which refer to “in such manner that the electors may express at the polls” and “at the polls.” It also points to similar words and phrases that imply voting is done in person. There is legal precedent for bolstering the argument that the Arizona Constitution intended for people to vote in person. “Constitutions, meant to endure, must be interpreted with an eye to syntax, history, initial principle, and extension of fundamental purpose.”

A judge in Pennsylvania struck down that state’s vote-by-mail law for similar reasons last month. Commonwealth Court Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt held, “If presented to the people, a constitutional amendment to end the Article VII, Section 1 requirement of in-person voting is likely to be adopted. But a constitutional amendment must be presented to the people and adopted into our fundamental law before legislation authorizing no-excuse mail-in voting can ‘be placed upon our statute books.’” Pennsylvania’s Democratic Governor Tom Wolf appealed the ruling, which has not gone into effect yet.

Due to concerns of election fraud in Arizona during the 2020 election, many are calling to eliminate voting by mail. HB 2596 would ban the practice.

Hobbs is running for governor, and leading gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake has called for Hobbs to recuse herself from overseeing the election due to her “history of irrational bias and disdain toward Republicans in addition to what election investigators have reported to the public about serious issues affecting tens of thousands of ballots and voters.” The Arizona Legislature removed Hobbs’ powers to defend state election laws and transferred them to the Arizona attorney general as part of a budget bill that passed into law on June 29.

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Rachel Alexander is a reporter at The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Rachel on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Katie Hobbs” by Arizona Secretary of State. Background Photo “Arizona State Capitol” by Wars. CC BY-SA 3.0.

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