PHOENIX – On Friday, District Court Judge Lanza dismissed a lawsuit brought by six initiative campaigns that wanted a court order permitting them to use the E-Qual system to obtain online signatures.
“Although Plaintiffs are correct that the COVID-19 pandemic constitutes an “extraordinary circumstance” that has resulted in “profound” dislocations, it is also a profound thing for a federal court to rewrite state election laws that have been in place since the 1910s,” wrote Judge Lanza in his ruling.
We all share a concern for public safety during this pandemic, but you can’t use a health crisis to disregard the AZ constitution. My job is to defend the law, & it’s ultimately up to policymakers to decide whether they want to expand access to E-Qual, not the courts or the SOS. pic.twitter.com/vRgDa6z7Jr
— Mark Brnovich (@GeneralBrnovich) April 17, 2020
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs did not oppose the lawsuits brought by the initiative campaigns. A member of her transition team, Roopali Desai, represents four of the six initiative campaigns who want an order from the Arizona Supreme Court permitting them to use the E-Qual system to obtain online signatures.
Judge Lanza agreed with the Attorney General’s Office that organizers were responsible for the failure to qualify the initiatives for the ballot:
“Here, a “reasonably diligent” committee could have placed its initiative on the November 2020 ballot despite the Title 19 requirements and the COVID-19 outbreak. It is notable that Plaintiffs’ declarations fail to provide any explanation (let alone justification) for why they waited so long to begin organizing and gathering signatures. The State has presented evidence that at least one Arizona initiative committee began that process in November 2018, yet the two committees in this case waited until the second half of 2019, thereby missing out on essentially a year’s worth of time to work toward the 237,645 signature cutoff. Moreover, notwithstanding that delay, one of the Plaintiffs was able to gather over 270,000 signatures—much more than the amount required under state law, albeit not enough to provide the buffer recommended by Mr. Gallaway—in the few months it was operating, and a different Arizona committee was able to gather around 300,000 signatures during the same abbreviated timeframe. All of this strongly suggests that, had Plaintiffs simply started gathering signatures earlier, they could have gathered more than enough to qualify for the ballot before the COVID-19 pandemic started interfering with their efforts.”
The Arizona Supreme Court is not expected to rule until later this month.