PHOENIX – Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced this morning that the Arizona Supreme Court has ruled in his favor and denied relief in a lawsuit that challenged Arizona statutes and constitutional provisions that protect the integrity of the initiative process.
In a 6-1 decision, the Arizona Supreme Court accepted jurisdiction of the case but rejected Plaintiffs' claims on the merits.
Plaintiffs (four special interest groups proposing initiatives) filed a lawsuit last month directly in the Arizona Supreme Court trying to force the State to accept signatures online through E-Qual, the state’s online signature-gathering platform, because of the COVID-19 health crisis. Plaintiffs challenged Arizona statutes that precluded electronic signature gathering but ignored a provision of Article IV of the Arizona Constitution, which clearly requires signatures on initiative petitions to be signed in the presence of a circulator.
“My job is to defend the law and I'm going to continue doing so as long as I'm Attorney General," said AG Brnovich. "A health crisis is not an excuse to ignore the constitution."
Additionally, the challengers could have started collecting signatures in November 2018 to qualify for the November 2020 ballot. This provided the challengers 20 months to obtain the required signatures, but most of the Plaintiffs did not begin circulating petitions until February of this year.
Expanding access to E-Qual for the initiative process is up to Arizona voters or policymakers. As the Arizona Supreme Court has previously explained, if this provision of the Constitution becomes “too inconvenient for present-day operation, the remedy is to amend it—not to ignore it.” Western Devcor, Inc. v. City of Scottsdale, 168 Ariz. 426, 432 (1991).
Attorney General Brnovich intervened after the Secretary of State declined to defend the challenged laws. This is one of four times so far in 2020 where the Secretary has declined to defend Arizona's election laws. Last week the Ninth Circuit denied a request for an injunction pending appeal in a similar challenge filed in federal court. A federal district court had previously denied relief. Today's decision ends the lawsuit filed in state court. A full opinion will be released by the court at a later date.