Toma Announces Plans To Sue Fontes For Elections Procedure Manual Failures

fontes
Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes

Arizona Speaker of the House Ben Toma announced on New Year’s eve that he is preparing to sue Secretary of State Adrian Fontes over the Election Procedure Manual he released in a Saturday evening dump.

“A lawful Elections Procedures Manual is paramount for the integrity of our elections. It’s been a top priority of the @AZHouseGOP,” tweeted Toma. “I’m disappointed that SoS Fontes refused to correct many objections we raised in our comment to the EPM draft. We are preparing for litigation.”

On Saturday night, Fontes released his version of the Elections Procedure Manual (EPM), just hours before the statutory deadline. The holiday weekend release was an expected ploy by Fontes to deny conservatives extra time to review the EPM and prepare litigation , but the contents left even conservative activists stunned.

The Arizona Republican Party called out Fontes for the document dump and announced it is “urgently calling attention” to the situation.

“The Arizona Republican Party is urgently calling attention to Liberal Democrat Secretary of State Adrian Fontes’ recent release of the Elections Procedure Manual (EPM), strategically issued at the last minute during a busy holiday weekend. This timing seems intended to minimize scrutiny and public awareness,” said the Party in a press release.

“The EPM is a critical document that outlines the rules and procedures for conducting elections in Arizona. Its contents directly impact the fairness and integrity of our voting process.”

The Party claims that a “quick initial review” of the 385-page document revealed “deeply concerning elements.”

Among the Party’s concerns are the fact that the EPM attempts “to criminalize the criticism of elections officials by voters and throw them out of polling places if they exercise their First Amendment right to do so.” The Party also alleges that Fontes is “attempting to criminalize raising voter challenges to poll workers that he disapproves of and deprives “the GOP of its statutorily protected right to choose members of the central count and signature verification board.”

The Party argues that the EPM “means that that there will be no independent oversight of key ballot processing and handling tasks.”

“Fontes purports to get rid of the AZGOP’s recent hard-fought court victory in Yavapai county requiring elections workers to use only the voter’s authorized comparison sample to verify signatures on early ballot envelopes,” notes the GOP.

Fontes claims that his new rules provide voters with “safe and secure elections heading into 2024.”

He pointed out in his press release that has already been “approved by Governor Katie Hobbs and Attorney General Kris Mayes on Dec. 29, 2023 as required by law.”

“This revised manual, which carries the force of law, was a top priority for the secretary in his first year in office as he collected input from county officials, tribes and through public comment before forming a consensus with Hobbs and Mayes,” claimed Fontes in his press release. “This document provides local and county election officials with a clear and more concise roadmap to conducting elections, so every Arizonan has the opportunity to vote.”

However, Republicans argue that it is anything but concise and note that it is “now over 100 pages shorter than before.”

“This is a clear power grab by the Secretary of State, trying to take powers from the state legislature that are not his to take,” said the GOP. “These issues, discovered in just a fraction of the manual, suggest a broader, potentially harmful agenda. We believe Secretary Fontes’ actions could seriously undermine Arizona’s election integrity and shift the state’s political balance permanently. This latest action by Secretary Fontes is a breathtaking overstep. Voters’ rights should never be taken away based on the subjective opinions of poll workers. We expect the State Legislature to initiate a lawsuit against Fontes’ extreme overreach, and we are also considering legal action. It is essential for all Arizonans to firmly stand together in protecting the fairness and freedom of our state’s elections.”

Experts say that while shorter is sometimes better, the past EPMs failed to provide enough information to country recorders for a universal understanding of procedures to be reached.

While country recorders have considerable discretion as to how they perform the duties outlined in the EPM, the failure of the Secretary of State to work with them and understand the unique situations, i.e. voting machines, ability to secure bipartisan oversight, etc. leaves a hodgepodge of not always reliable results.

Representative Alexander Kolodin stated, “Adrian Fontes’ election procedures manual is a breathtakingly anti-democratic attempt to disenfranchise Arizona voters, it will not be allowed to stand.”

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