/ Modified feb 10, 2024 10:15 a.m.

GOP organizations sue Arizona's top election official in latest dispute over election manual

The suit alleges violations of public comment and public disclosure requirements, along with specific provisions state officials approved for the manual.

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National and local Republican groups in Arizona sued the secretary of state Friday in an effort to invalidate or adjust a manual, used for conducting elections and certifying results, that GOP leaders have said threatens election integrity.

The Republican National Committee, Arizona Republican Party and the Yavapai County Republican Party filed the lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court against Secretary of State Adrian Fontes, a Democrat. It stems from updates Fontes made to the Elections Procedure Manual, which his office is required to do every two years.

It alleges violations of public comment and public disclosure requirements, along with specific provisions state officials approved for the manual. It’s the second suit Republicans have filed in two weeks that aims to change the elections manual.

The manual is written by the secretary of state and must be approved by the attorney general and governor, positions all currently held by Democrats. When all three sign off, the changes carry the force of law

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said the manual is “designed to undermine election integrity in Arizona.” Arizona GOP Chairwoman Gina Swoboda also called it “a blatant attempt to rewrite election law” in a statement announcing the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs' main argument — which attempts to invalidate the entire manual — is that Fontes did not provide enough time for the public to comment on the proposed changes to the elections procedure manual. The plaintiffs claimed Fontes permitted 15 days of public comment, instead of the required 30, for a draft of the manual. They also said Fontes published an updated draft manual and submitted it to Gov. Katie Hobbs and Attorney General Kris Mayes for final approval without public comment.

The lawsuit also alleges Fontes ignored requirements under Arizona’s Administrative Procedures Act and that “critical portions “ of the manual were not disclosed to the public between the draft and final publication of the manual — which was released on Dec. 30, with adjustments from Hobbs and Mayes.

The GOP organizations additionally have challenged specific changes to the manual they said should be overturned, even if the entire manual is not invalidated. This includes a rule that allows otherwise-eligible “federal-only voters" to participate in presidential elections if they have not provided proof of citizenship in the past, and a rule which they claim limits the public’s access from records containing a voter’s signature.

Fontes’ office said in an emailed statement that they have not been officially served the lawsuit, though they were given a courtesy copy by the plaintiffs. A spokesperson added they do not comment on pending litigation.

In the earlier lawsuit filed Jan. 31, Republican House Speaker Ben Toma and Senate President Warren Peterson said certain changes to the manual did not comply with legislative authority.

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