No, the law didn’t bar Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs from running for governor

FILE - Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., waits for a news conference at the Capitol in Washington on...
FILE - Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., waits for a news conference at the Capitol in Washington on July 22, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)(J. Scott Applewhite | AP)
Published: Dec. 6, 2022 at 4:02 PM MST
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WASHINGTON (Politifact) - In Arizona, 2022 is looking like 2020. The losers in a close election are casting doubt on the voting process.

Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., took aim at Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who narrowly won the race for governor.

“Katie Hobbs had a clear conflict of interest to supervise an election in which she was a candidate,” Gosar tweeted Nov. 15. “Candidates are prohibited from being even poll workers, much less supervising the entire election. Hobbs has created an aura of self-interest and fraud, tainting this election.”

Gosar implies that the law for poll workers applies to the secretary of state. That is incorrect. The law bars candidates from serving as poll workers, but it does not block secretaries of state from being candidates.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, poll workers cannot be candidates. Spouses, children and parents of candidates are also prohibited from being poll workers.

In fact, candidates in Arizona are not allowed to be within 75 feet of polling stations, or do anything that would interfere with voting.

Although secretaries of state execute the laws that govern elections, they play no role in running the actual voting or counting votes.

As the state’s Citizens Clean Elections Commission explains, a poll worker’s role will vary depending on the county and whether they are processing an early ballot or an election day ballot. Broadly, they help get ballots ready for counting. For example, with early voting ballots, election staff confirm the identity of the voter, then poll worker volunteers from both major political parties remove early ballots from their envelopes and prepare them for the tabulation room.

Election staff run the ballots through tabulation machines. By law, these rooms must have live feeds so voters can watch the process. The secretary of state’s website has a page for voters to check whether their votes were counted.

Matthew Roberts, communications manager for the Maricopa County Elections Department, says county recorders, county boards of supervisors and county elections departments administer elections, not the secretary of state.

The secretary of state does oversee such areas as campaign filing and finances, logic and accuracy testing of tabulator equipment, result aggregation and state certification of county canvasses. The office also works with counties to complete the election procedures manual and have it approved by the attorney general and governor.

Nothing bars a secretary of state from running for office. In 2018, Georgia’s secretary of state, Brian Kemp, a Republican, ran for governor and defeated Democrat Stacey Abrams. Abrams accused Kemp of using his secretary of state position to make it harder for her supporters to vote, but she didn’t say that the law barred him from running in the first place.

Our ruling

Gosar said the law bars a secretary of state from being a candidate. He argued that if poll workers can’t be candidates, neither can secretaries of state.

Poll workers and secretaries of state play different roles in elections. Poll workers help with core activities, including assisting at polls on Election Day and in getting early ballots ready to be counted. Secretaries of state ensure counties follow state election laws, but leave the conduct of elections to counties.

No law bars a secretary of state from being a candidate. We rate this claim False.

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