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Gov. Ducey, Secretary of State Hobbs spar over election guideline changes

Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (left) and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (right). (AP Photos/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Secretary of State Katie Hobbs have sparred this week over changes to upcoming election guidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Hobbs has issued new guidelines to help voters in long-term care facilities through the coronavirus pandemic, but Ducey’s office accuses her of cheating.

“We are focused on ensuring that no one has to choose between their health and safety, and their right to vote,” Hobbs said.

On Wednesday, Hobbs denied guiding county recorders to register voters via phone or video.

“The governor turned this into a public back-and-forth now, and I don’t think he’s interested in resolving the issue,” Hobbs said.

Earlier, Ducey’s office said it was relieved to learn that wasn’t true but is now asking Attorney General Mark Brnovich to review that claim anyway.

Both the Republican governor and the Democratic secretary of state’s offices released correspondence between them.

They address concerns from recorders, but only name Yuma County recorder Robyn Stallworth Pouquette, a Republican.

“This is not the time to be experimenting with election policies that are outside of what’s authorized through statute or the Elections Procedures Manual,” Ducey spokesman Patrick Ptak said.

He added that voting by mail works just fine, and other states study Arizona’s effectiveness with it.

Hobbs has guidance, albeit non-binding, for voters stuck in care facilities to cast ballots via video in the presence of sanctioned special election board members.

“They’re somehow verifying the ID,” Hobbs said. “Someone who’s a caregiver might bring it to the election board staff so they can look at it.

“Then, they establish a video connection, and they fill out the ballot at the voter’s direction. They’ll do it over video instead of in person, but still face-to-face.”

Election boards in Maricopa County helped 10 voters cast ballots virtually during the August primary, said Diana Solorio, a spokesman for Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes, a Democrat.

Hobbs said she’s helping voters through the pandemic by reasonable means.

“We are not setting up new procedures,” Hobbs insisted. “We are not going outside of the confines of the law.”

However, Hobbs said the governor made this issue political.

Ptak wouldn’t comment on that, only saying Ducey wants to avoid making patchworks of election law.

“So that every voter across the state is treated the same, and that every vote counts so that there won’t be any question about someone’s vote because it adhered to the agreed-to policies,” Ptak said.

“The fact that this is being construed as guidance shows that there actually isn’t the authority to do this.”

Both Hobbs and Ptak say they’re trying to ensure everyone who can vote is able to do that while preventing voter fraud.

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