Arizona AG sued for threatening to prosecute top state election official for updating election system

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs is suing Attorney General Mark Brnovich after he threatened to prosecute her if she temporarily shuts down for a required update to an online system that allows election candidates to collect the signatures they need to qualify for the ballot.

The suit announced by the state’s top election official and Democratic candidate for governor on Tuesday says Brnovich is "pursuing unfounded and unprecedented enforcement action against the Secretary" and "threatening the Secretary with criminal prosecution for performing her duties as the State’s Chief Elections Officer."

Hobbs wants a judge to issue an injunction prohibiting the Republican attorney general from investigating or prosecuting her.

"It’s disappointing that the Secretary of State tries to politicize every issue," Brnovich spokesperson Katie Conner said in a statement. "She seems more concerned with avoiding the blame than fixing the problem."

The suit is the latest dustup between the two elected officials and political rivals over the state’s election systems. They previously faced off over the elections manual Hobbs is required to update every two years but that Brnovich refused to approve.

Brnovich, who is running in the GOP primary for U.S. Senate, launched the latest volley last month. He had one of his assistant attorney generals send Hobbs a letter telling her that she could face criminal prosecution if the "E-Qual" system is taken offline as planned early next month. Candidates must collect a certain number of signatures from voters in order to make the ballot, and most are collected using the online system.

The letter from Jennifer Wright warned Hobbs’ general counsel that the secretary is required to maintain an online system and allowing it to be taken down during an election cycle would violate the law and could lead to felony or misdemeanor charges.

But Hobbs’ lawsuit said she is only doing what is required to update the system with new congressional and legislative district mapping data that comes after the once-a-decade redistricting process.

The state’s Independent Redistricting Commission has drawn new district lines and county election officials need to update their systems so voters cast ballots in the correct district. That involves the E-Qual system, which only allows a voter to sign for a candidate in their district.

The old districts are being used now by candidates under a law passed by the Legislature last year.

Hobbs was the subject of threats from backers of former President Donald Trump after she and Republican Gov. Doug Ducey certified that Trump had in Arizona to President Joe Biden.

She tweeted Tuesday that she "won’t sit idly by while our Attorney General now joins in with baseless threats to arrest election officials."

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