Hobbs Won’t Oppose Lawsuit By Initiative Campaigns To Use E-Qual System

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, wearing a face mask, accepts nominating petitions with her gloveless hands from Arizona State House candidate Kathy Pearce. Hobbs had unsuccessfully tried to prevent candidates like Pearce from being able to personally hand in their signatures. [Photo courtesy Kathy Pearce.]

PHOENIX – Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs will not oppose a lawsuit brought by a member of her transition team, Roopali Desai, who now represents four initiative campaigns who want an order from the Arizona Supreme Court permitting them to use the E-Qual system to obtain online signatures.

Hobbs came out in support of the lawsuit on Monday after six ballot initiative campaigns filed a Petition for Special Action with the Arizona Supreme Court.

After being advised by the Arizona Attorney General that her office must accept candidates’ nominating petitions in person, Hobbs tweets out a photo showing that she is in compliance with state statute. Hobbs advises Twitter followers that she is wearing gloves to perform the dangerous act of accepting candidates’ petitions.

“I won’t oppose the request being made by these organizations. I plan to let the court know that my office can implement the necessary changes, should that be the court’s order. Given the challenges to in-person signature collection caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing initiative campaigns to use the E-Qual system, as some candidates already do, is a reasonable option for protecting public health and supporting continuity in our democratic processes,” said Hobbs in a press release.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich believes the issue should be settled by Governor Doug Ducey; whose stay-at-home order has impacted signature gathering. Brnovich has argued that the campaigns should weigh-in first before taking the matter to court.

“We can and should make reasonable accommodations in light of the global pandemic, and I’m concerned that the attorney general’s request delays action,” argued Hobbs in her press release. “I hope that the court will recognize the need for workable solutions.”

While Hobbs claims the pandemic has interfered with the initiatives’ ability to gather signatures, on Monday, Arizona State House candidate Kathy Pearce filed her nominating signatures after entering the race just ten days ago. “I can’t tell you how much everyone’s help means to me,” said Pearce in a Facebook post. “We got in about nine or ten days ago and by last night, when we added up all of the signatures we had received or collected we were looking at around 750 signatures… In a little over eight full days of collecting.”

“Secretary of State Hobbs claims to be looking for workable solutions, but she is really looking to tilt the playing field,” said Sergio Arellano, whose petition gathering company Tipping Point AZ, was able to get all of its candidate clients on the ballot. “Kathy Pearce is an excellent candidate, so my team had no problem helping her get on the ballot. The fact that these initiatives have not been able to secure a space on the ballot only speaks to their lack of popularity.”

Alexander Kolodin, who was also a late entry into an Arizona State Senate race, had no problem getting on the ballot. “We are grateful for the groundswell of support and our dedicated team who was able to adapt quickly to the challenges posed by the pandemic and overachieved to get us on the ballot with almost twice the number of signatures required within just a few weeks of announcing.”

“For Secretary Hobbs to now want to use the E-Qual system for initiatives when she failed to follow Arizona law and make that system available for county-level candidates is rich. Her actions are not about fairness or access,” said Arellano, one of the founding members of the Santa Cruz County Elections Integrity Commission, “this is about getting an advantage by tweaking people’s sense of compassion during a scary time in our nation’s history.”

In Arizona, candidates are required to obtain a minimum number of petition signatures to appear on a ballot. Voters can electronically sign the petitions of statewide and legislative candidates through the E-Qual portal provided by the Secretary of State’s Office.

Arizona Legislature passed a bill sponsored by then-Rep. David Stevens to requiring the E-Qual system to be available for county-wide candidates. Neither Hobbs’ predecessor, nor Hobbs has abided by the law and provided that access.

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