Arizona GOP legislators votes to strip powers from the Democratic secretary of state after she slammed the state’s GOP-led 2020 election audit

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In this Monday, Dec. 14, 2020, file photo, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs removes her face mask as she addresses the members of Arizona’s Electoral College prior to them casting their votes, in Phoenix.

  • Republicans in Arizona’s state legislature voted Tuesday to strip the Democratic Secretary of State of election powers.
  • The move comes one day after Katie Hobbs slammed the GOP-led 2020 election audit happening in Maricopa County.
  • The measure would transfer authority over elections lawsuits to the state’s Republican attorney general.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Republicans in Arizona’s state legislature passed a measure on Tuesday to strip Democrat Katie Hobbs of her election powers as Secretary of State after she criticized the state’s controversial, GOP-led audit of the 2020 election.

The bill, which passed both the state House and Senate Appropriations Committees, would transfer election powers from Hobbs to Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who Hobbs filed a still-pending ethics complaint against last year, first reported by AZ Central.

In a comment to Insider, Hobbs said she filed the complaint against Brnovich because he engaged in a pattern of unethical and partisan behavior. She said she filed the complaint with the State Bar of Arizona in October in hopes that the issue would be resolved in a professional and nonpartisan manner.

“He frequently sought to substitute his judgement for my own and allowed his political preferences to interfere with his obligation to represent me as a client, in my pursuit of the best interests of Arizona voters,” Hobbs told Insider. “Unfortunately, it appears that AG Brnovich isn’t asking forgiveness for his behavior – he’s asking our legislature to authorize it,” Hobbs said.

A representative for Brnovich did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

The legislative response to Hobbs’ ongoing audit criticism would give Brnovich authority to defend all elections lawsuits through early January 2023, which marks the end of both his and Hobbs’ current terms.

The measure, which still has to pass the full legislature, would also ban the attorney general from representing or providing legal counsel to the secretary of state, who is typically in charge of overseeing elections. The proposed changes will be included in the state’s full budget proposal which is set to be voted on later this week, according to local news station KNXV.

Hobbs responded to the proposal earlier this week, calling it an attack on Arizona voters.

“All year our legislature has worked to undermine our elections – from a wave of bills to make it harder to vote to the ridiculous ‘audit’ taking place at the Coliseum,” she said on Twitter. “It appears the next step is an attempt to undermine Arizona’s Chief Elections Officer and prevent me from doing the job Arizonans elected me to do.”

“The fact that the legislature has singled out me and my office for these unjustifiable restrictions – restrictions which expire at the end of my term – make it clear what this is really about: partisan politics,” she said.

Rep. Regina Cobb and Sen. David Gowan, respective chairs of the legislature’s Appropriations Committees, did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

The move comes amid the state’s ongoing audit of the 2020 election in Maricopa County led by Arizona’s GOP-controlled Senate, more than six months after President Joe Biden beat former President Donald Trump by about 45,000 votes in the county and by slightly more than 10,000 ballots in the state.

After Trump and his supporters spent months sowing doubt about Biden’s win in the once-Red state, state Republicans chose Cyber Ninjas, a private firm with no prior elections experience and spearheaded by a Trump supporter, to carry out another count of ballots in Maricopa County. The recount decision was made in spite of the county’s Republican-controlled board of supervisors objecting to it, saying the election had already been audited more than once by credible firms.

The audit, which kicked off on April 23, has been plagued by questions of legality and partisanship stemming from a slew of errors and absurdities. Earlier this month, the Maricopa County Attorney’s office sent state leaders and audit vendors a “hold” letter instructing them to retain all documents and audit communications – the first official sign that Maricopa County leaders are considering post-audit legal action.

Cyber Ninjas did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

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