Calling her interpretation of the law “at least plausible,” the state Attorney General’s Office won’t pursue Michele Reagan for her failure to update the state elections manual this year the way her predecessors have done. Michael Bailey, the chief deputy, acknowledged Tuesday that the secretary of state adopted what appears to be a unique interpretation of the law requiring her to prepare the manual. That book, now nearly 400 pages, is a virtual bible for election workers on every facet of what the law requires and how to handle different situations. Put simply, she decided it’s OK to simply keep in place for this the 2014 manual prepared by her predecessor despite that not being how prior secretaries of state read the law. That decision resulted in a complaint by Chandler attorney Tom Ryan to Attorney General Mark Brnovich.
He argued the law says a manual “shall” be updated before every election. And Ryan argued to Brnovich that Reagan’s failure made her guilty of a felony.
But Bailey, in his response to Ryan on behalf of Brnovich, said the law is not as clear as Ryan states. And he said that, no matter how you read it, Reagan committed no criminal offense. “The statute is subject to multiple interpretations,” Bailey wrote.
Looking at it one way, he said, the law would require a new manual every time there was an election, even if there were several in the same year. “On the other hand, past secretaries of state have interpreted the law to require a new manual every election cycle,” Bailey continued. Here, he said, Reagan takes the position the law imposes no duty to issue a new manual in any given here.