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Arizona official told to let candidates file in person

PHOENIX — Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said in a formal opinion Tuesday that Secretary of State Katie Hobbs can’t force candidates for office to mail their nominating petitions to her office or just put a drop box in the lobby of the Capitol’s executive tower.

The Republican attorney general said Hobbs acted illegally when she implemented the new procedure to reduce exposure to the conoravirus. Candidates for federal, statewide or legislative offices were affected.

Hobbs, a Democrat, announced the change to all-mail filing last Friday and said her office staff would mainly work from home to reduce their exposure. On Monday, her office said they were adding a drop box in the lobby of the executive tower to accept candidate filings up to the April 6 deadline for this year’s primary or general election.

Senate President Karen Fann and House Speaker Rusty Bowers complained to Hobbs in a letter Tuesday that the all-mail system would require candidates outside Phoenix to send in qualifying petitions as much as a week before the deadline to ensure they arrive on time.

“The Secretary of State’s Office has no inherent or statutory emergency authority to unilaterally make such a drastic change in long-standing election law,” they wrote.

Fann also asked Brnovich for an opinion, and he quickly complied.

“Accepting candidate filings and providing receipts for those filings are statutorily required business transactions performed by the Secretary of State’s Office,” Brnovich wrote in the legal opinion. “Prohibiting in-person filing closes the office to statutorily required business transactions.”

Hobbs’ spokeswoman, Sophia Solis, said she could not immediately comment on the opinion.

Gov. Doug Ducey has ordered schools closed statewide and restaurants, bars and movie theaters closed in counties with virus outbreaks. Many state offices have limited or eliminated office transactions.

For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

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