Arizona's Democrat Secretary of State Stripped of Election Powers
Republicans on state legislature vote to strip Katie Hobbs' election-related powers
Arizona’s Democrat Secretary of State Katie Hobbs has been stripped of her powers in election-related lawsuits by the state's legislature, accoridng to reports.
Republicans on the Arizona legislature voted to strip the powers from anti-Trump Hobbs and, instead, hand them over to the attorney general’s office.
The measure was contained within a budget reconciliation bill (pdf).
The move seeks to stop Hobbs from playing a role in lawsuits related to state election rules while giving the attorney general’s office “sole authority” to defend Arizona election laws.
The bill now heads to the desk of Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, who hasn’t signaled opposition and is expected to sign it.
The bill’s language regarding curtailing Hobbs’s power is “necessary to ensure the faithful defense of the State’s election integrity laws and to eliminate confusion created by the Secretary of State about who speaks for Arizona in court,” Katie Conner, spokeswoman for Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich, told the Arizona Mirror.
His office also accused Hobbs of filing “politically motivated bar complaints against” his office’s lawyers to “target their professional standing and reputation.”
The version of the measure that passed on the night of June 24 says the “attorney general has sole authority in all election litigation to direct the defense of election laws, to appeal or petition any decision, and to intervene on behalf of this state at any stage” until Jan. 2, 2023, which is when Hobbs’s term ends.
The bill would also bar the attorney general’s office from providing legal advice or representing the secretary of state.
Hobbs also can’t use public funds to hire lawyers relating to election litigation and additionally limits her to hiring one full-time legal adviser.
Hobbs, who has frequently criticized the ongoing audit of Maricopa County’s 2020 election results, decried the passage of the bill late last week and accused Republicans of retaliating against her “because they did not like the outcome of the Presidential Election,” according to a statement released by her office.
“Basically, Arizona Republicans are moving to temporarily transfer this authority from a Democrat to a Republican for one election cycle only (at which point they could seemingly decide, depending upon who controls each office, who should be in charge of this),” The Washington Post analyzed.
Hobbs notably likened Trump supporters to “neo-Nazis” in 2017, before she took her position as secretary of state.
“[Donald Trump] has made it abundantly clear he’s more interested in pandering to his neo-nazi base than being [President of the United States] for all Americans,” she wrote via Twitter.
Hobbs has also routinely pushed back against the Republican-led 2020 presidential election audit, according to The Daily Wire.
The Democrat reportedly sparked a letter sent in May from the Biden Department of Justice attempting to stop the audit.
Hobbs thinks the DOJ “is at a place where they don’t think they legally can send in observers,” she told the Post at the time.
“But they’re certainly paying attention to what’s going on.”
Pamela S. Karlan, who heads the DOJ’s civil rights division and authored the letter, suggested “that the recount of nearly 2.1 million ballots in Maricopa County by a private contractor may not comply with federal law, which requires that ballots be securely maintained for 22 months following a federal election,” the Post reported.
“We have a concern that Maricopa County election records, which are required by federal law to be retained and preserved, are no longer under the ultimate control of elections officials, are not being adequately safeguarded by contractors, and are at risk of damage or loss,” Karlan wrote.
Back in February, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Timothy Thomason disagreed with Karlan’s current analysis.
The Daily Wire reported:
Senate Republicans and the GOP-dominated Maricopa County Board of Supervisors disagreed about the accessibility of the ballots; the Senate wanted to perform an audit to address election integrity concerns from constituents, whereas the board argued the ballots, by law, were to be kept secret for 24 months following the election.
The judge scolded the parties for failing to come to an agreement on their own but sided with the Senate, suggesting the law in question does not conflict with the subpoenas.
"There is no question that the Senators have the power to issue legislative subpoenas,” Judge Thomason wrote at the time, according to The Associated Press.
"The Subpoenas comply with the statutory requirements for legislative subpoenas.
"The Senate also has broad constitutional power to oversee elections.”
"The Arizona legislature clearly has the power to investigate and examine election reform matters,” the ruling said.
"The Subpoenas also do not violate separation of powers principles.
"Production of the subpoenaed materials would not violate confidentiality laws.”