Arizona: “Court stops County Recorder from sending ballots to all voters for Tuesday election”

Arizona Capitol Times:

A Superior Court judge has stopped Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes from sending ballots to all voters who aren’t on the early voters list for Tuesday’s Presidential Preference Election. 

Attorney General Mark Brnovich filed suit Friday for the emergency order after the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said Fontes disobeyed their orders to not mail out the ballots.

“The Maricopa County Recorder cannot unilaterally rewrite state election laws,” Brnovich said in a press release. “Fontes is creating chaos in our elections during an already difficult time. In times of crisis, the public looks to our elected officials to follow the law – not make reactionary decisions for political gain.”

Hobbs wrote a letter to Fontes this afternoon calling his actions illegal. 

“I want to reiterate what I communicated to you on the phone this morning,” Hobbs wrote. “My Office’s position is that you do not have legal authority at this stage to mail a ballot to all voters who have not requested one. The lack of an express statutory prohibition is irrelevant. If your view were correct, counties apparently have had authority to conduct countywide all-mail elections all this time.”

I understand the motivation to make sure voters can cast their ballots, especially given COVID-19 related polling place closures in Maricopa County. But we can’t have election officials unilaterally take action in violation of state law, because changing the rules in the middle of the election without legal authority. This undermines the rule of law and voter confidence in elections, a point I make in Election Meltdown in discussing a Florida election administrator who accepted electronically-submitted ballots after a hurricane in violation of state law (which provided other mechanisms for dealing with the hurricane emergency. As Michael Morley puts it:

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