WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Republican legislative leaders in Arizona filed a lawsuit challenging provisions of Arizona’s 2023 Elections Procedures Manual (EPM).
Approved in December 2023, the EPM lays out the rules for the state’s elections from voter registration rules to the certification of election results and everything in between. Today’s lawsuit includes six claims challenging provisions of the 2023 EPM that pertain to Arizona’s Active Early Voting List, voter registration cancellation, petition circulator requirements (for a person who gathers signatures for candidate petitions or ballot initiatives) certifying elections and interpretations of ongoing legal proceedings.
The lawsuit alleges that the EPM’s date for removal notices for the state’s Automatic Early Voter List is incompatible with Arizona law and argues that if a voter did not vote in 2022 and 2024, a removal notice should be sent to that voter. According to the EPM, the first removal notices must be sent by 2027 to voters who do not vote by early mail-in ballot in 2024 and 2026.
In terms of voter registration cancellation, the plaintiffs argue that while the 2023 EPM states that there are many ways a county recorder can receive information that a registrant is not a U.S. Citizen, third party allegations are not enough to initiate the removal process. The plaintiffs say this conflicts with state law, which states that a county recorder should initiate the process of removing a voter if “he or she “has reason to believe [the person is] not [a] United States citizen.”
In addition, the EPM contains new language to prevent the delay of certification of election results: “The Board of Supervisors has a nondiscretionary duty to canvass the returns as provided by the County Recorder or other officer in charge of elections and has no authority to change vote totals, reject the election results, or delay certifyng results without express statutory authority or court order.”
In an apparent attempt to dissuade rogue counties from attempting to delay certification or not certify, as Cochise County did after the 2022 midterms, the EPM also states that if the official canvass has not been received by the deadline, “the Secretary of State must proceed with the state canvass without including the votes of the missing county.” The plaintiffs challenge this provision arguing that “Arizona law does not allow the Secretary of State to disenfranchise the voters of an entire county.”
Republicans argue that the guidelines laid out in the EPM conflict with Arizona law and the state constitution and request that the court block these provisions.
This is not the first time Republicans have sued over the state’s EPM. In 2022, the state’s former Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) filed a lawsuit challenging the 2022 EPM. The court ruled against Brnovich and ordered the use of the 2019 election procedures manual for the 2022 elections since the 2019 election procedures manual was previously approved by both the governor and the attorney general. Brnovich appealed this decision, but the appeal was ultimately dismissed on Aug. 30, 2022.
As we head into a busy presidential election year, it is clear that Republicans will stop at nothing to target the minutiae of election administration. This lawsuit is just one of several filed by Republicans that targets the state’s voting procedures.