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Attorney General's office accuses AZ election chief of undermining public confidence

Attorney General's office accuses AZ election chief of undermining public confidence

  • Updated
Secretary of State Katie Hobbs

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said the Trump administration was trying to sabotage the Postal Service.

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs is being accused of undermining public confidence in the integrity of elections by a top aide to Attorney General Mark Brnovich.

In an often sharply worded letter, Joe Kanefield said Wednesday there’s no basis for Hobbs’ claims that President Trump and his administration are conspiring to undermine the timely delivery of ballots in Arizona. He called the complaint that Hobbs made “purely speculative,” saying she provided no evidence.

“Making accusations of criminal misconduct by the president and other federal officials based on mere conjecture undermines the integrity of our elections,” Kanefield said. And what makes it worse, he said, is that these are “coming from a ‘trusted source’ for election information,” referring to the fact that Hobbs is the state’s chief election official.

In a letter to Brnovich earlier this week, Hobbs pointed out that Louis DeJoy, the postmaster general, who took over the agency in June, implemented a series of changes, including eliminating employee overtime and removing some mail-sorting machines. DeJoy said these steps were necessary to make the agency financially sustainable, with its financial struggles exacerbated by the pandemic.

Hobbs argued that the changes, coming before the election, were a bid by the Trump administration to “sabotage” the postal service. And she argued it had to be seen in context with comments by the president that he would not support an additional $25 billion for the agency because it is designed to make it easier to have “universal mail-in voting,” which Trump opposes and claims is subject to fraud.

All that, Hobbs said, leads to an “inescapable conclusion” there is a “coordinated scheme” designed to interfere with the ability of Arizonans to vote by mail. And that, she argued, violates a state law which makes it a crime to delay delivery of a ballot.

Kanefield, himself a former state elections director, said that the allegations by Hobbs, a Democrat, about coordination between Trump and DeJoy ignore a crucial fact: DeJoy was appointed not by the president but by the postal service’s board of governors. Kanefield, a Republican like Brnovich, said DeJoy “does not report to the president.”

Kanefield also pointed out that DeJoy announced Tuesday he was suspending his cost-cutting initiatives until after the election.

“Given that the allegations in your letter are without merit and are now moot, we will take no further action on your complaint,” he wrote.

But the decision by DeJoy to not make further cuts, for now, is not satisfying congressional Democrats. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she is planning a special session this weekend to approve a $25 billion to boost the financially ailing agency.

And Hobbs pointed out that the move by DeJoy to back down did not come in a vacuum. It followed an announcement by 20 state attorneys general — all Democrats — to file lawsuits in federal court.

“I’m disappointed to hear that Attorney General Brnovich is unwilling to even investigate,” she said in a statement.

Kanefield, writing on behalf of Brnovich, said what’s lacking is any real information linking whatever is happening with the Postal Service with any effect on elections here.

“You present no evidence ... that any action by the president impacted USPS operations in Arizona during the Aug. 4, 2020, primary election,” he wrote. Nor, Kanefield said, has Hobbs shown any issues with the mail-in balloting during this election.

“The evidence in Arizona, therefore, does not suggest that there has been or will be voter disenfranchisement as a result of any changes to the postal system,” he said.

But Kanefield did not stop there, taking a slap at Hobbs for filing and publicizing her complaint.

“In the midst of a pandemic and within months of a major election, it is critical that election officials not spread misinformation, politicize administrative processes, or criminalize congressional funding issues,” he said. “To the extent you may be confronted with other political issues like this one in the future, we encourage you to take steps to maintain, rather than undermine, public confidence in Arizona’s election process.”

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