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GOP organizations sue Arizona's top election official in latest dispute over election manual

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GOP organizations sue Arizona's top election official in latest dispute over election manual



National and local Republican groups in Arizona sued the secretary of state Friday in an effort to invalidate or adjust a manual, used for conducting elections and certifying results, that GOP leaders have said threatens election integrity.

The Republican National Committee, Arizona Republican Party and the Yavapai County Republican Party filed the lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court against Secretary of State Adrian Fontes, a Democrat. It stems from updates Fontes made to the Elections Procedure Manual, which his office is required to do every two years.

It alleges violations of public comment and public disclosure requirements, along with specific provisions state officials approved for the manual. It’s the second suit Republicans have filed in two weeks that aims to change the elections manual.

The manual is written by the secretary of state and must be approved by the attorney general and governor, positions all currently held by Democrats. When all three sign off, the changes carry the force of law

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Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said the manual is “designed to undermine election integrity in Arizona.” Arizona GOP Chairwoman Gina Swoboda also called it “a blatant attempt to rewrite election law” in a statement announcing the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs’ main argument — which attempts to invalidate the entire manual — is that Fontes did not provide enough time for the public to comment on the proposed changes to the elections procedure manual. The plaintiffs claimed Fontes permitted 15 days of public comment, instead of the required 30, for a draft of the manual. They also said Fontes published an updated draft manual and submitted it to Gov. Katie Hobbs and Attorney General Kris Mayes for final approval without public comment.

The lawsuit also alleges Fontes ignored requirements under Arizona’s Administrative Procedures Act and that “critical portions “ of the manual were not disclosed to the public between the draft and final publication of the manual — which was released on Dec. 30, with adjustments from Hobbs and Mayes.

The GOP organizations additionally have challenged specific changes to the manual they said should be overturned, even if the entire manual is not invalidated. This includes a rule that allows otherwise-eligible “federal-only voters” to participate in presidential elections if they have not provided proof of citizenship in the past, and a rule which they claim limits the public’s access from records containing a voter’s signature.

Fontes’ office said in an emailed statement that they have not been officially served the lawsuit, though they were given a courtesy copy by the plaintiffs. A spokesperson added they do not comment on pending litigation.

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In the earlier lawsuit filed Jan. 31, Republican House Speaker Ben Toma and Senate President Warren Peterson said certain changes to the manual did not comply with legislative authority.





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Arizona

Matthews scores twice as Toronto hands Arizona 11th straight loss

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Matthews scores twice as Toronto hands Arizona 11th straight loss


TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Auston Matthews scored his 50th and 51st goals of the season Wednesday night in the Toronto Maple Leafs star’s hometown return, breaking a tie as the fastest U.S.-born player to reach 50 goals at 54 games.

Matthews scored the milestone goal on a power play at 5:01 of the first period in a 6-3 victory over the Arizona Coyotes.

From nearby Scottsdale, Matthews scored on a shot from the circle to the left of goaltender Karel Vejmelka to make it 2-0. Mitchell Marner and Timothy Liljegren assisted on the goal that came with Michael Carcone in the penalty box for slashing.

“We had a couple of power plays and were kind of able to snap it around. I just tried to get open and (Marner’s) got the puck and he’s got a great sense of where I am on the ice and vice versa,” Matthews said. “We just try to push ourselves to be the best that we can be individually and the best teammates we can be.”

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Matthews added his 51st — giving him 350 career goals in 535 games — late in the second period for a 4-2 lead en route to Toronto’s fifth straight victory.

“It’s a small step in a long season,” Matthews said. “Coming back home against a team that’s really had our number the past couple of seasons, it was just a good effort all around. It’s a great atmosphere, and it makes for a pretty fun game.

Matthews shared the previous U.S.-born mark with former Pittsburgh star Kevin Stevens at 62 games. Matthews is the fastest to 50 since Mario Lemieux since did it for Pittsburgh in 50 games in 1995-96. Wayne Gretzky holds the record, scoring his 50th in his 39th game for Edmonton in 1981-82 on his way to a record 92 goals.

Matthews has nine goals in his last four games, having two consecutive hat tricks before a single goal against St. Louis on Monday night. Florida’s Sam Reinhart is second in the NHL with 39 goals.

Matthews, who had 60 goals two seasons ago to lead the NHL, making him the first to reach that mark since Steven Stamkos had 60 in 2011-12. The last players to score 70 or more in a season were Teemu Selanne and Alexander Mogilny, who each had 76 in 1992-93.

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Arizona prosecutor refuses to extradite murder suspect to New York

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Arizona prosecutor refuses to extradite murder suspect to New York


An Arizona prosecutor said she will not extradite a New York murder suspect to the state on Wednesday, claiming Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) could not be trusted to keep the man behind bars.

Maricopa County prosecutor Rachel Mitchell said in a press conference Wednesday that the suspect will instead remain in Arizona.

“Having observed the treatment of violent criminals in the New York area by the Manhattan DA there, Alvin Bragg,” Mitchell said, “I think it’s safer to keep him here and keep him in custody, so that he cannot be out doing this to individuals either in our state, county, or anywhere in the United States.”

The suspect, 26-year-old Saad Almansoori, stands accused of the murder of a 38-year-old woman in New York City earlier this month. He was arrested in Arizona days later, after stabbing a second person.

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Mitchell specifically cited Arizona’s mandatory minimum prison sentences as a reason to deny extradition, implying that Bragg would not pursue a harsh enough sentence.

A spokesperson for Bragg’s office denounced Mitchell’s decision not to allow extradition and her attacks on Bragg himself.

“It is deeply disturbing that D.A. Mitchell is playing political games in a murder investigation,” spokesperson Emily Tuttle said in a statement to The New York Times.

“New York’s murder rate is less than half that of Phoenix, Ariz., because of the hard work of the N.Y.P.D. and all of our law enforcement partners,” she continued. “It is a slap in the face to them and to the victim in our case to refuse to allow us to seek justice and full accountability for a New Yorker’s death.”

Bragg, a Democrat, has been a locus for political criticism of New York City law enforcement, with detractors claiming that the district attorney is to blame for a perception of higher crime. Bragg is also the prosecutor who brought the business fraud case against former President Trump regarding hush money payments allegedly made to cover affairs, attracting more claims of political motivation. 

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Bragg sued Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, last April, accusing him of a “transparent campaign to intimidate and attack” his work, following a House investigation.

Mitchell is also politically connected across the nation. She served as the outside attorney to Senate Republicans during the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and famously questioned the woman who accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault during a public hearing, Christine Blasey Ford.

The Hill has reached out to the offices of Bragg and Mitchell comment.

Copyright 2024 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.



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AZ schools are struggling to fill teaching positions as leaders brainstorm staffing solutions

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AZ schools are struggling to fill teaching positions as leaders brainstorm staffing solutions


Public school educators say they are some of the most underpaid and overworked laborers in the country.

In 2023, Educators for Excellence polled thousands of teachers about their experiences and workloads and found that while 80% of teachers are likely to spend their entire careers in the classroom, only 14 % of teachers would recommend the job to others. These striking statistics come as no surprise for educators who have been dealing with the pitfalls of school staffing shortages for years now with little to no reprieve.

The Arizona State University Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College’s annual Strategic School Staffing Summit earlier this month highlighted a collection of potential solutions, but now the question remains if any of them will incentivize teachers enough to commit to the classroom long term.

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Across the school districts in the state, more and more educators are quitting or are considering leaving the profession. Against the backdrop of lack of affordable housing, the rising cost of living, political discourse and stagnant wages, the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association (ASPAA) found that by January 2023, of the more than 7,500 teaching positions that had been vacant at the beginning of the school year, over 82% remained either still vacant or were filled by people who didn’t meet required teaching qualifications.

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“This is a predominantly 80% female-dominated profession and so it’s expected that women do this unpaid labor for their children, for the students, because we’re seen as more maternal,” Arizona Education Association President Marisol Garcia said. “But … on the other end, Arizona educators and most educators across the country do not have family leave, do not have health care coverage for their children, do not have high rates or really great medical insurance for if we do get injured or if we do have children.”

“How are we taking advantage of this labor, this exploitation of labor particularly in a female-dominated workforce, and yet not putting up any supports that allow them to continue to be happy and healthy and stay and continue to do the job that we’re expecting them to do?” Garcia asked.

In Arizona – where the average teacher’s salary ranks 32nd in the nation, according to the National Education Association – the teachers posing this question are typically the ones considering leaving the profession.

The Next Education Workforce initiative at the Fulton Teachers College aims to tackle some of the issues plaguing classrooms by inviting presenters, educators, researchers and other experts in education from across the country to the virtual two-day staffing summit.

Honing in on staffing structure, the summit highlighted some of the main characteristics of strategic school staffing as distributed leadership, compensation structures, innovative teaming, extended teacher reach and technology that optimizes educator roles. A common theme was counting on “enabling conditions,” such as equitable and sustainable funding for schools, flexible state and district policies, strong focused leadership and access to high-quality technical assistance, in order to maintain the strategic school staffing structure.

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“All of this is the set of enabling conditions, the data systems and structures. All of this has huge bearing on our ability to do this work,” Executive Director of Next Education Workforce Brent Maddin said during opening remarks at the summit. Logos of many of the organizations, higher education institutes, school districts and nonprofits that contributed and presented at the event were on full display to give, “a sense of the breadth of people that are doing this work, arm-and-arm, between universities and school systems. We are all part of the solution,” Maddin said.

Statewide policy solutions for school staffing

A proposed policy solution from Gov. Katie Hobbs seeks to have voters extend Proposition 123 and raise the State Land Trust Permanent Fund distribution, which would fund Arizona public schools over the course of 10 years. Hobbs estimates her plan would raise $118 million for school support staff, $347 million for teacher pay raises and $257 million for general school funding.

“Prop 123 might be able to mitigate a little bit of the turnover and the exodus that we’re seeing. But, by itself, it isn’t going to solve it,” Sen. Christine Marsh, D-Phoenix, a supporter of Hobbs’ plan and former Arizona Educational Foundation teacher of the year, said. “We have tens of thousands – somewhere around 60- to 70,000 certified teachers in Arizona – who won’t teach. So it really is not a teacher shortage, it is a shortage of people who are qualified and willing to teach, so there’s a lot more we absolutely need to do. With the legislative makeup the way it is, I don’t know if we’ve got very much hope of too much happening.”

The Republican plan to raise teacher pay also seeks to tap into Prop 123 but specifies funding for teacher raises and seeks to keep the land trust distribution at 6.9%, compared to 8.9% under Hobbs’ plan. In addition, Arizona Rep. Matt Gress, R-Phoenix, is sponsoring HB 2608, which passed in the House earlier this month. The bill would require the State Board of Education to conduct a retention study among school districts and charter schools.

But with varying opinions and proposals across the board, bipartisan agreement on how to fund Arizona educators seems unlikely.

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AEA President Garcia said she supports Hobbs’ plan and letting districts manage how they spend their funding versus the Republican plan, which she says incentives pay per performance. “I’m excited that people are talking about this because clearly we’ve been raising the issue for forever.”



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