Right-Wing Groups Bring Federal Lawsuit Against Arizona’s Election Procedures

Republicans are taking aim at Arizona’s election guidelines in a new federal lawsuit challenging state policies on county vote canvassing and voter intimidation — the latest attempt from conservatives to unravel aspects of Arizona’s election procedure.

The federal lawsuit filed Monday by rightwing groups American Encore and the America First Policy Institute and an Arizona voter alleges that two provisions of the 2023 Arizona Election Procedure Manual (EPM) are unconstitutional. The case names Secretary of State Adrian Fontes (D) and other state officials as defendants. 

It’s the fourth conservative-backed lawsuit against parts of the EPM and the first federal complaint against Arizona’s election procedures. A similar case filed in February on behalf of Arizona Republicans and the Republican National Committee was dismissed in May. The plaintiffs are appealing.

Republicans are challenging a provision that allows the secretary of state to proceed with canvassing results statewide if a county fails or refuses to certify the canvas election results for that county. In the event a county fails to submit its results on deadline, the secretary of state will continue without those votes. The lawsuit calls the policy an “unconstitutionally severe burden on the right to vote.” 

The second provision in question prohibits “any activity by a person with the intent or effect of threatening, harassing, intimidating, or coercing voters (or conspiring with others to do so) inside or outside the 75-foot limit at a voting location. Plaintiffs allege this curtails free speech in violation of the First Amendment. 

The complaint says the EPM’s “Vote Nullification” provision stems from the 2022 incident in Cochise County where two Republican county supervisors refused to certify the 2022 midterms and were ultimately charged with felony offenses. The pair are accused of knowingly interfering with the secretary of state’s efforts to complete the canvass of the 2022 Statewide General Election.

Plaintiffs allege the mandate would disenfranchise every voter in the county.

When asked about the provision, Fontes’ office told Democracy Docket it doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

Read the complaint here.

Read Arizona’s Election Procedure Manual here.