PHOENIX — A top aide to Attorney General Mark Brnovich is accusing Secretary of State Katie Hobbs of undermining public confidence in the integrity of elections.
In an often sharply worded letter, Joe Kanefield said Wednesday there’s no basis for her 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.
More to the point, Kanefield, himself a former state elections director, said that the allegations by the Democrat secretary of state about coordination between Trump and Louis DeJoy, the postmaster general, ignore a crucial fact: DeJoy was appointed not by the president but by the postal service Board of Governors. Kanefield, a Republican like Brnovich, said DeJoy “does not report to the president.’’
“Making accusations of criminal misconduct by the president and other federal officials based on mere conjecture undermines the integrity of our elections,’’ Kanefield said. What makes it worse, he said, is that these are “coming from a ‘trusted source’ for election information,’’ referring to the fact that Hobbs the state’s chief election official.
Kanefield 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.
The decision by DeJoy to not make further cuts at this time is not satisfying congressional Democrats. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she is planning a special session this weekend to approve an extra $25 billion to boost the financially ailing agency.
Hobbs also 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.
In a letter to Brnovich earlier this week, Hobbs pointed out that DeJoy, 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 were necessary to help make the agency financially sustainable, with its perennial struggles only exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hobbs argued that the changes, coming before the election, was 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 an an “inescapable conclusion’’ there is a “coordinated scheme’’ designed to interfere with the ability of Arizonans to vote by mail. That, she argued, violates a state law that makes it a crime to delay delivery of a ballot.
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.
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.’’