Secretary of State Katie Hobbs will be breaking the law if she shuts down the system that allows congressional and legislative candidates to collect signatures online so they can qualify for the ballot, the Attorney General’s Office warned Tuesday.
In a letter to Bo Dul, Hobbs’ general counsel and election policy advisor, the Attorney General’s Office said state law requires the Secretary of State’s Office to provide a secure internet portal for voters to sign candidates’s nominating petitions, and that the system must only permit qualified electors to sign those petitions. Failing to do so would be either a class 3 misdemeanor or a class 6 felony, wrote Jennifer Wright, who leads Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s election integrity unit.
Hobbs informed candidates last week that she planned to take E-Qual, the online signature portal, offline on March 5 so counties and the Secretary of State’s Office could update the system to incorporate data from the state’s new legislative and congressional districts. She expected the system to be shut down through the April 4 deadline for candidates to file the nominating petitions they need to qualify for the primary election ballot.
“As it is clear that no action yet has been taken to deprive candidates of their statutory right to obtain online nomination signatures, we urge the Secretary of State to fix the system without delay,” Wright told Dul in the letter.
The Secretary of State’s Office disagrees with Wright’s claim that shutting down E-Qual would be illegal and is considering its response, said Murphy Hebert, a spokeswoman for Hobbs.