Judge allows Mark Brnovich to sue Katie Hobbs over election procedures manual

PHOENIX — Arizona Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich is joining GOP officials in suing Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs in an escalation of a dispute over an election procedures manual she is required to complete.

The two have been at odds for months over the manual that tells county officials how to conduct elections, and have gotten tangled up in other fights as well. Brnovich threatened to investigate Hobbs for temporarily disabling an online signature collection system used by candidates to update it with new congressional and legislative district maps approved earlier this year.

Hobbs then sought a judge’s intervention to stop the promised investigation, but the judge said his request was premature. Brnovich then delegated the investigation to the Cochise County Prosecutor’s Office.

There is a political undertone to the whole drama. Brnovich is seeking his party’s nomination for the US Senate, hoping to face Democratic Senator Mark Kelly in November. Hobbs, meanwhile, is running for governor.

The lawsuit by Brnovich and the Yavapai County Republican Committee was filed Thursday in Yavapai County Superior Court. Seeks an order requiring Hobbs to provide a manual that provides county election officials with clear guidance on how to conduct elections and complies with current state election law.

Hobbs submitted the manual as required on October 1, but Brnovich refused to approve it. That left the one he completed two years earlier as the guidelines for the 2020 election. A contract attorney Brnovich hired to review the manual sent him a letter in early December saying much of it did not meet legal requirements. .

In a response dated December 17, Hobbs told Brnovich that much of the rejected material had been approved just two years earlier by him and Gov. Doug Ducey.

“There is no legal basis for these mass deletions and they defeat the purpose of the Manual itself, leaving large gaps in electoral procedures, introducing inconsistencies in lengthy processes, and creating unnecessary uncertainty and risk for election officials on the cusp of a year. electoral. that will already be a challenge due to redistricting,” Hobbs wrote.

The two have been at loggerheads for much longer. In 2020, Hobbs filed a complaint with the state bar alleging that Brnovich acted unethically in representing her and her office in election cases. The GOP-controlled Legislature responded by stripping Hobbs of her authority to determine the state’s position in election cases, even though she is the top election official, though that provision was later blocked by the Arizona Supreme Court. .

Brnovich signed a bypass agreement with the Arizona State Bar that will result in the dismissal of the complaint if he meets certain commitments. Brnovich has not said what is required of him, but such agreements often involve additional training in legal ethics.

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