Proposed law takes away elections manual changes from secretary of state

SB 1014, proposed by Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, would require that any changes in the formal election manual be approved by the Governor’s Regulatory Review Council. 
/ Capitol Media Services file photo

By Howard Fischer | Capitol Media Services via Arizona Capitol Times

A veteran state lawmaker is seeking to trim the wings of the secretary of state, at least when it comes to enacting procedures for conducting elections.

SB 1014, proposed by Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, would require that any changes in the formal election manual be approved by the Governor’s Regulatory Review Council. That means there would be formal public hearings.

What it also means, said Ugenti-Rita, is that the council would be able to quash any changes that members believe go outside the legal authority of the secretary of state.

This is more than an academic question.

Ugenti-Rita is particularly upset that Secretary of State Katie Hobbs has proposed to give people who fail to sign the envelopes on their early ballots an additional five business days − even after Election Day − to come in and make the fix and have their votes counted. The senator said that’s not something that’s allowed by law.

“That has to be something that’s done at the Legislature,” she told Capitol Media Services. “You can’t just arbitrarily put it in the manual.”

Ugenti-Rita also is separately preparing legislation to specifically ban counting any ballot when the voter did not sign it, effectively trumping the change she said Hobbs is illegally proposing.

Murphy Hebert, spokeswoman for Hobbs, said the provision was part of a deal to settle a federal court lawsuit filed against the state last year by the Navajo Nation. Attorneys for the nation argued that tribal members who did not know they were supposed to sign the envelopes or whose signatures did not match were effectively disenfranchised when election officials did not count their ballots.

Ugenti-Rita said that’s irrelevant, saying that Hobbs lacked the authority to agree to such a provision and instead should have sought legislative authority before settling.

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