PHOENIX (AP) – Arizona County election officials have identified fewer than 200 cases of potential voter fraud out of more than 3 million ballots cast in last year’s presidential election, further discrediting claims of former President Donald Trump with a stolen election as his allies continue a contested conflict. scrutiny of the ballot in the state’s most populous county.
An Associated Press investigation found 182 cases where the issues were clear enough for officials to refer them to investigators for further investigation. So far, only four cases have resulted in charges, including those identified in a separate state investigation. No one has been convicted. No one’s vote was counted twice.
While it is possible that more cases will emerge, the numbers illustrate the implausibility of Trump’s claims that fraud and irregularities in Arizona cost him the votes of the state electorate. In the final, certified and audited results, Biden won 10,400 more votes than Trump out of 3.4 million votes cast.
PA findings match previous studies showing voter fraud is rare. Many protections are built into the system not only to prevent fraud, but also to detect it when it occurs.
“The point is, state election officials are heavily invested in helping to ensure the integrity of our elections and the public trust in them,” said Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a democrat. “And part of that involves taking potential voter fraud seriously. “
The potential Arizona cases also illustrate another reality: voter fraud is often bipartisan. Of the four Arizona cases that resulted in criminal charges, two involved Democratic voters and two involved Republicans.
The AP review supports statements made by many state and local election officials – and even some Republican county officials and GOP Governor Doug Ducey – that Arizona’s presidential election was safe and its results valid.
And yet the GOP-led Arizona State Senate has been conducting what it describes as a “forensic audit” of the results in Maricopa County in Phoenix for months. The effort has been discredited by election experts and faced bipartisan criticism, but some Republicans, including Trump, have suggested it will uncover evidence of widespread fraud.
“It’s not a huge problem,” said Adrian Fontes, a Democrat who oversaw the Maricopa County Election Office in the 2020 election and lost his candidacy for re-election. “It’s a lie that has developed over time. It was fueled by conspiracy theorists.
The AP identified the potential cases after submitting public registration applications to all counties in Arizona. Most counties – 11 out of 15 – said they had not referred any potential cases to local prosecutors. The majority of cases identified so far concern people voting for a deceased relative or people who have attempted to vote twice.
In addition to the PA’s review of county election offices, a state attorney general’s office election integrity unit that was established in 2019 to detect fraud has looked at potential cases of fraud.
A spokesman for Attorney General Mark Brnovich told the PA in April that the unit had 21 active investigations, although he did not say if all were from last fall.
A month later, the office indicted a woman for voting on behalf of her mother who died in November. A spokeswoman declined to provide updated information this week.
Maricopa County, which is subject to scrutiny in the contested poll ordered by Republicans in the State Senate, identified only one case of potential fraud out of 2.1 million votes cast. He was a voter who could have voted in another state. The case was forwarded to the county attorney’s office, who forwarded it to the state attorney general.
Virtually all of the cases identified by county election officials are in Pima County, where Tucson is located, and involve voters who attempted to vote twice.
The Pima County Registrar’s Office has a habit of referring all cases with even a suspicion of potential fraud to prosecutors for review, which the state’s 14 other county registrars do not. Pima County officials forwarded 151 cases to prosecutors. They did not refer 25 other voters over the age of 70, as there was a greater chance that those errors – usually attempts to vote twice – were the result of memory lapses or confusion, and not of a criminal intent, said an election official.
None of the 176 duplicate ballots was double-counted. A spokesperson for the Pima County District Attorney’s Office, Joe Watson, said the 151 cases he received were still under review and no charges had been filed.
Pima County’s count of referrals to prosecutors after last year’s election was consistent with that of 2016 and 2018. Prosecutors filed no cases of voter fraud after the 2016 election and only one after the election in 2018, and that case was subsequently dismissed, Watson said on Friday.
But there have been new models this year, Assistant Secretary Pamela Franklin said. An unusually large number of people appeared to have intentionally voted twice, often voting early in person and then voting again by mail. In Arizona, where nearly 80% of voters cast their ballot by mail, it is not uncommon for someone to forget that they have returned their mail-in ballot and then ask for a replacement or try to vote in person, a- she declared. But this model was new.
Franklin noted several factors at play, including concerns about delays in the US Postal Service. Additionally, Trump at one point encouraged voters who voted early by mail to show up at their polling stations on election day and vote again if election officials could not confirm that their ballots had been received.
Results in Arizona are similar to early results in other battlefield states. Local Wisconsin election officials identified only 27 potential cases of voter fraud out of 3.3 million ballots cast last November, according to records obtained by the PA under the state’s Open Records Act. Potential cases of electoral fraud in other states where Trump and his allies have challenged have so far represented only a tiny fraction of Trump’s losing margin in those states.
The Associated Press conducted the review in the following months of Trump and his allies claiming without evidence that he won the 2020 election. His allegations of widespread fraud were dismissed. by election officials, judges, a group of election security officials and even Trump’s own attorney general at the time. Even so, supporters keep repeating them and they have been cited by state lawmakers to justify stricter voting rules across the country.
In Arizona, Republican state lawmakers used the unsubstantiated allegations to justify unprecedented outside scrutiny of the Senate elections in Maricopa County and to pass legislation that could make it more difficult for infrequent voters to automatically receive postal ballots.
Trump, in a statement, called the AP tally an attempt to “discredit the massive number of electoral irregularities and fraud” in major battlefield states and said the “real numbers” would be released “under little ”. He provided no evidence to support his claims.
Senate Speaker Karen Fann has repeatedly stated that her goal is not to overturn the election results. Instead, she said she wanted to find out if there had been any problems and show voters who believe Trump’s claims if they should trust the results.
“Everyone keeps saying, ‘Oh, there’s no proof’ and it’s like, ‘Yeah, well, let’s do the audit’. And if there is nothing there, then we say, “Look, there was nothing there,” Fann told the AP in early May. “If we find something, and that’s a big if, but if we find something, then we can say, ‘OK we have some evidence and now how do we fix this? “” Fann did not return calls this week to discuss the PA results.
Aside from the double voting, the cases reported by authorities mainly involved a ballot after the death of one person, including three voters in Yavapai County who face felony charges for voting for spouses who died before the election. .
In Yuma County, the case of a voter attempting to vote has been sent to the county prosecutor for review. Civilian Deputy Chief William Kerekus told the AP there was no intention of voter fraud and the case was dropped without charge.
Cochise County recorder David Stevens discovered that mail ballots were received from two deceased voters before the mail ballots were mailed out in early October. Sheriff’s assistants investigating the cases discovered their homes were vacant and closed the business. The votes were not counted.
Cassidy reported from Atlanta.