Judge will decide if rules will be in place to run elections

Or will there be “chaos?”

By Howard Fischer |Capitol Media Services 

A judge will decide this coming week whether there will be any rules in place to run this year’s elections or whether there will be, as an attorney for the governor fears, “chaos” at the polls.

Anni Foster, attorney for Gov. Doug Ducey, told a judge on Friday that Attorney General Mark Brnovich never approved a new Election Procedures Manual as the law required by Dec. 31. Instead, the attorney general waited four months before filing suit, accusing Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs of failing to produce a “legally compliant’” manual.

And by “legally compliant,” Brnovich made it clear he believes that means what he decides is legal.

In the meantime, Foster told Yavapai County Superior Court Judge John Napper, the state — and the election officials in the 15 counties — are in legal limbo. So, she wants him to declare that the manual adopted in 2019 remain in effect and election officials can rely on them unless and until a new one is approved.

Time is running out.

The primary is on Aug. 2. Early ballots go out in less than a month.

And it’s even more immediate, with several counties already having administered local elections this year.

“These elections are ongoing right now,” Foster said. And she told the judge, it is “inviting chaos in the 2022 election” if he doesn’t rule that counties should continue to follow the 2019 manual, which has the force of law.

“If there is no procedure manual in effect, then nobody knows what the rules are,” Foster told Napper.

That, however, is getting a fight from Assistant Attorney General Michael Catlett. He said there have been multiple changes in state law and various court rulings since then, all of which he said make the manual “outdated.”

Napper, however, told Foster he’s not sure he even has the power to issue such an order. He pointed out the only legal issue before him is Brnovich’s lawsuit, which does not seek to confirm the 2019 manual but to force changes he wants in the new one.

And the judge also lashed out at Brnovich for putting him in the difficult position of trying to figure out now, just ahead of this year’s elections, how counties should be running the election.

He got Catlett to acknowledge that Brnovich got the draft manual from Hobbs on Oct. 1, which was the deadline. And the deadline for adoption was Dec. 31.

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