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Arizona GOP leaders threaten lawsuit over proposed elections manual

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Cameron Arcand

(The Center Square) — Senate President Warren Petersen is threatening legal action against Secretary of State Adrian Fontes over the current draft of the Arizona Elections Procedures Manual.

Petersen and House Speaker Ben Toma wrote to Fontes on Monday, laying out multiple issues they have with the manual that is due to get its biennial update.

The biggest issue that Petersen has with the manual is that there's a "delay in the implementation of a 2021 state law" that routinely purges the active early voting list for those who have not voted in the past four years and "have not responded to notification" from their county recorder's office, according to a news release.

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"Our current Secretary of State has a history of distorting our elections laws and pushing the envelope on questionable procedures," Petersen said. "My hope is that he will update the EPM with our corrections before submitting to the Attorney General and Governor for approval. Failure to do so will result in legal action."

In addition, the Republican also criticized Fontes for decreasing the time frame of public comment to two weeks when it is normally a month.

In an Aug. 1 news release, Fontes said his draft submission comes amid "heightened scrutiny" in elections, particularly in a battleground state such as Arizona, which became the center of attention following former President Donald Trump's narrow loss of the state in 2020. He will then submit the manual for approval to Gov. Katie Hobbs and Attorney General Kris Mayes October 1.

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"As a former County Recorder, I understand how important this manual is for the dedicated Arizonans who are entrusted with one of the toughest and most important jobs in our democracy," Secretary Fontes said in a news release. "In an atmosphere of heightened scrutiny of our elections, local and county officials need clear guidance based on law. Now that we are at the start of our public comment period, I look forward to continuing this important conversation about a document that is essential to the running of safe, secure, and accurate elections in every corner of our state."

Fontes made it a point in his version of the manual to make sure it only includes the necessary rules for counties to abide by, according to Votebeat's Jen Fifield in June.

This is not the first time elected officials have fought over the manual. Former Attorney General Mark Brnovich and Hobbs had a legal battle over the manual in 2022 when she was secretary of state, and a judge ultimately sided with Hobbs despite Brnovich wanting significant changes made, The Arizona Republic reported. Former Gov. Doug Ducey opted to stay out of the dispute between the two.