Cases January 18, 2023

AZ GOP v. Hobbs – Early Voting and Elections Procedures Manual (AZ)


Issue Areas

On February 25, 2022, in an attempt to invoke original jurisdiction of the Arizona Supreme Court, the Arizona Republican Party (AZ GOP) and party member Yvonne Cahill filed a petition for special action against the state of Arizona and Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs in the Arizona Supreme Court. The petitioners argued that early voting, including absentee or mail-in voting, violates the state constitution and challenged Secretary Hobbs’ authority and actions under the Elections Procedures Manual related to providing drop box and signature verification guidance to county-level election officials. 

States United served as pro-bono co-counsel for Secretary Hobbs alongside Coppersmith Brockelman PLC. In her response to the AZ GOP’s petition for special action, Secretary Hobbs made the case that: 

  • Early voting is constitutional in Arizona because the state constitution does not require in-person voting or dictate the manner of voting, and gives the legislature the power to prescribe voting methods; 
  • The case would upend early voting options in the middle of the election cycle, prejudicing all Arizonans; 
  • The current Elections Procedures Manual complies with Arizona law; and 
  • Procedurally, the Arizona Supreme Court lacks jurisdiction and the Arizona Republican Party lacks standing to bring the case. 

Several diverse amicus briefs were filed in opposition to the AZ GOP’s early voting challenge and in support of Secretary Hobbs’ position, including by American Enterprise Institute Senior Fellow Norm Ornstein, Arizona State University Professor and then-Attorney General candidate Kris Mayes, Arizona Voting Rights Advocates, the Arizona League of Women Voters, Navajo Nation, and the Inter Tribal Association of Arizona, among others. 

On April 5, the court declined to grant jurisdiction, dismissing the case and keeping early voting options intact. 

On May 17, the AZ GOP refiled the case in Mohave County Superior Court, narrowing their claims to challenge only the 1991 law that permitted noexcuse voting by mail for all Arizonans. The trial court set an expedited briefing schedule and ordered the Secretary and other defendants to appear at a hearing on June 3. Secretary Hobbs filed a combined motion to dismiss and response to plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction.  

On June 6, Judge Lee Jantzen entered an order denying all relief and upheld no-excuse early voting, citing Arizona’s long history of mail-in voting and concluding: “There is nothing in the Arizona Constitution which expressly prohibits the legislature from authorizing new voting laws, including ‘no-excuse’ mail-in ballots.” 

The plaintiffs appealed Judge Jantzen’s order on June 15 and filed their opening appeals brief on June 28. They sought an emergency petition to transfer the appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court. The Supreme Court rejected the petition on July 8, after which plaintiffs moved for expedited appeal, which the Court of Appeals also rejected on July 12. Secretary Hobbs filed her answering brief to the plaintiffs’ appeals brief on August 8. The plaintiffs’ filed a consolidated reply brief on August 29. On December 7, 2022 the court of appeals held oral arguments. 

As of early 2023, States United no longer represents the office of the Secretary of State in this case.

Latest Update

On January 17, 2023, the court affirmed the lower court’s decision, that mail-in voting is legal in Arizona.

The plaintiffs then filed a petition for review in the Arizona Supreme Court, which the court denied on June 2, 2023, thereby preserving vote-by-mail in Arizona.

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