Representatives Offer Assistance To Fontes In Update Of Elections Procedure Manual


With multiple counties preparing for elections in May, two Arizona lawmakers are seeking answers from new Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes about his plans to update the state’s outdated Elections Procedures Manual (EPM).

State Rep. Jacqueline Parker, chair the House Committee on Municipal Oversight & Elections (MOE), along with MOE Vice Chair Rep. Alexander Kolodin issued a letter to Fontes on Tuesday asking how will remedy various issues with the current 2019 EPM, some of which has been the subject of court rulings and changes in state law the last three years.

They also ask Fontes his position on the draft 2021 EPM put forth by former Secretary of State Katie Hobbs. That draft never went into place because then-Gov. Doug Ducey and former Attorney General Mark Brnovich soundly rejected it as being over-reaching.

“Recent Arizona court decisions give us serious concerns about the lawfulness of former Secretary Hobbs’ 2019 EPM and 2021 draft EPM,” Parker and Kolodin said in a prepared statement Tuesday. “We hope Secretary Fontes more fully evaluates where the prior Secretary overstepped her bounds and look forward to hearing how those errors will be corrected.”

Arizona Revised Statute 16-452 authorizes the Secretary of State to prescribe rules “to achieve and maintain the maximum degree of correctness, impartiality, uniformity and efficiency on the procedures for early voting and voting, and of producing, distributing, collecting, counting, tabulating and storing ballots.”

These rules, put forth every two years before each general election, are considered the “official instructions and procedures” along with state law for the administration of all elections held in Arizona under Title 15 (Education), Title 16 (Elections and Electors), and Title 48 (Special Taxing Districts).

The Secretary of State, however, must first obtain approval of the draft EPM from the governor and the attorney general. But as previously reported by Arizona Daily Independent, a judge declared the 2019 EPM as governing the 2022 election cycle due to the fact Hobbs’ draft 2021 EPM was never approved.

Arizona’s 2023 Elections Still Slated To Follow 2019 Procedures

Fontes has until the end of the year to put forth a draft 2023 EPM that will apply to 2024 and 2025 elections. In their letter, Parker (R-LD15) and Kolodin (R-LD3) note they need information about Fontes’ plans in order to evaluate what reforms are needed to Arizona’s elections laws.

They also share summaries of a few court decisions involving those statutes, noting “we hope that these cases will be a useful starting point as your office more fully evaluates where the prior Secretary overstepped the proper bounds of the executive branch with respect to the 2019 EPM and draft 2021 EPM’s provisions.”

The letter gives Fontes until 5p.m. Jan. 24 to respond to the following inquiries:

– In drafting the 2023 EPM, will you be disregarding former Secretary Hobbs’ draft 2021 EPM, which was neither approved by the former Attorney General or Governor, nor sanctioned as lawful by any court?

– For each provision of the 2019 EPM, your position on: whether the provision is properly included in the EPM pursuant to A.R.S. 16-542 or other applicable law; what statute authorizes the provision’s inclusion, as drafted; and whether you believe the provision has the force of law or is merely directory.

– Copies of any supplemental guidance, statements, emails, or directives that former Secretary Hobbs (or her agents) gave to county election officials in connection with the 2022 General Election that are not written in the 2019 EPM.

– Copies of any and all drafts of the 2023 EPM, including without limitation any partial, preliminary or working drafts, and copies of any documents or communications reflecting input or proposals from third parties concerning the contents of the 2023 EPM.

Parker and Kolodin have also offered to participate as stakeholders in any drafting sessions Fontes may hold in advance of putting forth his draft 2023 EPM.