AG Brnovich Prevails at Ninth Circuit Defending Arizona Election Law

PHOENIX - Attorney General Mark Brnovich just announced Arizona prevailed at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in a challenge to one of the State’s rules for accountability in the voter initiative process.

In 2014 the Arizona Legislature passed a law requiring paid and out-of-state petition circulators to make court appearances when subpoenaed in the event of challenges to the signatures they collected. A no-show results in the disqualifications of the signatures in question.

In July 2019, the plaintiffs (Jessica Miracle, a group of petition signers, circulators, sponsors, and initiative proponents) filed a lawsuit against the Arizona Secretary of State to invalidate the law.

On appeal of this lawsuit, the Secretary of State declined to continue to defend the state law (which she supported as a legislator), electing to become a nominal party. As a result, the State was compelled to intervene through Attorney General Brnovich. This case is one of four instances in 2020 where the Secretary has declined to defend state election laws. In each instance, Attorney General Brnovich, either through the State or in his own name, has intervened to defend Arizona law.

“Elected officials must defend the will of Arizonans with integrity,” said Attorney General Brnovich. “Unlike other elected officials, I will not cave to political pressure."

In today’s opinion, the Ninth Circuit affirmed a district court’s denial of the request to suspend the law. It was determined that circulators are not injured as a result of being called to testify as they have already consented to the state’s jurisdiction for that very purpose and promised to appear if subpoenaed.

The court also noted there are other options available if a circulator is unable to appear in person, including the ability to challenge the subpoena and/or request the accommodation of appearing telephonically. Finally, the court faulted plaintiffs for their delay in filing suit, explaining that the likelihood of harm is further undermined by the length of time the law has successfully been in effect.

Deputy Solicitor General Drew C. Ensign, for the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, argued the case before the Ninth Circuit on April 17. 

Copy of the Ninth Circuit’s decision.