PHOENIX (AP) – Arizona County election officials have identified fewer than 200 cases of potential voter fraud out of more than 3 million votes in last year’s presidential election and undercut former President Donald Trump’s allegations of a stolen election as his allies continue a controversial poll in the state’s most populous county.
An Associated Press investigation found 182 cases where problems were clear enough for officials to refer them to investigators for further review. So far, only four cases have led to charges, including those identified in a separate state investigation. No one has been convicted. No person’s voice was spoken twice.
While that is possible, several cases may arise, but the numbers illustrate the improbability of Trump’s claims that fraud and irregularities in Arizona cost him the state’s voter votes. In the final, certified and revised results, Biden won 10,400 more votes than Trump out of 3.4 million votes.
The AP’s findings are consistent with previous studies showing that voter fraud is rare. Numerous security measures are built into the system to not only prevent fraud, but to detect it when it happens.
“The fact is, state election officials across the state are heavily invested in helping ensure the integrity of our elections and public confidence in them,” said Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat. “And part of that involves taking potential voter fraud seriously.”
Arizona’s potential cases also illustrate another reality: Voter fraud is often bipartisan. Of the four cases in Arizona that have resulted in prosecutions, two involved Democratic voters and two involved Republicans.
The AP’s review supports statements by many state and local election officials – and even some Republican county officials and GOP government Doug Ducey – that Arizona’s presidential election was safe and its results valid.
And yet, for several months, Arizona’s GOP-led state Senate has been conducting what it describes as a “forensic review” of the results in Phoenix’s Maricopa County. The effort has been discredited by election experts and confronted with bipartisan criticism, but some Republicans, including Trump, have suggested it will reveal evidence of widespread fraud.
“This is not a massive issue,” said Adrian Fontes, a Democrat who oversees the Maricopa County Election Office during the 2020 election and lost his bid for re-election. “It is a lie that has developed over time. It is fed by conspiracy theorists. ”
The AP picked up the potential cases after sending public record requests to all Arizona counties. Most counties – 11 out of 15 – reported that they had not sent any potential cases to local prosecutors. Most cases identified so far involve people casting a ballot on a relative who has died or people attempting to cast two ballots.
In addition to the AP’s review of the county’s election offices, an election integrity unit from the Attorney General’s Office, set up in 2019 to quell fraud, has reviewed possible cases of fraud.
A spokesman for Attorney General Mark Brnovich told the AP in April that the unit had 21 active investigations, though he did not specify whether all were from last fall.
A month later, the office accused a woman of casting a vote on behalf of her dead mother in November. A spokeswoman declined to provide updated information this week.
Maricopa County, which is the subject of the disputed ballot, ordered by Republicans from the Senate, has only identified one case of potential fraud out of 2.1 million ballot papers cast. It was a voter who might have cast a ballot in another state. The case was sent to the county attorney’s office, who forwarded it to the attorney general.
Nearly all of the cases identified by county election officials are in Pima County, home of Tucson, and involved voters who tried to cast two ballots.
The Pima County Recorder’s Office has a practice of referring all cases with even a touch of potential fraud to prosecutors for review, something the state’s 14 other county officials do not do. Pima County officials sent 151 cases to prosecutors. They did not refer 25 others from voters over the age of 70 because there was a greater chance that these mistakes – typically attempts to vote twice – were the result of memory loss or confusion, not criminal intent, an election official said.
None of the 176 double votes were counted twice. A spokesman for the Pima County Attorney’s Office, Joe Watson, said Wednesday that the 151 cases it received were still being investigated and that no charges had been filed.
Pima County’s numbers were in line with previous elections, but there were some new patterns this year, said Deputy Recorder Pamela Franklin. An unusually large number of people appeared to have deliberately voted twice, often by voting early in person and then again by mail. In Arizona, where nearly 80% of voters voted per. Post, it is not uncommon for someone to forget that they returned their vote and then later ask for a replacement or try to vote in person, she said. But this pattern was new.
Franklin noted several factors, including concerns about delays in the U.S. Postal Service. In addition, Trump at one point encouraged voters who cast their ballot early by mail to show up at their polling stations on election day and vote again if polling workers could not confirm that their mail ballots had been received.
The results in Arizona are similar to early finds in other battlefield states. Wisconsin local election officials identified only 27 potential cases of voter fraud out of 3.3 million votes in November last year, according to records obtained by the AP under the state law on open record. Potential cases of voter fraud in other states, where Trump and his allies mounted challenges, have so far accounted for only a small fraction of Trump’s losing margin in those states.
The Associated Press conducted the review in the following months of Trump and his allies, who claimed without proof that he had won the 2020 election. His allegations of widespread fraud have been denied. of election officials, judges, a group of election security officials and even Trump’s own lawyer general at the time. Yet supporters continue to repeat them, and they have been cited by state legislators as justifying tighter voting rules across the country.
In Arizona, Republican state lawmakers have used the unsubstantiated allegations to justify the unprecedented State Senate’s review of the Maricopa County election and to pass legislation that could make it harder for rare voters to receive postal votes automatically.
Senate President Karen Fann has repeatedly said her goal is not to overthrow the election result. Instead, she has said she wants to find out if there were any issues, and show voters who believe Trump’s claims whether they should trust the results.
“Everyone keeps saying, ‘Oh, there’s no evidence,’ and it’s like, ‘Yeah, 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 it’s a big if, but if we find something, we can say, ‘OK, we have evidence, and how do we solve it now?'” Fann did not return this week to discuss the AP -fund.
Aside from the double vote, the cases marked by officials mostly involved a vote after someone died, including three voters in Yavapai County who face crimes for voting for spouses who died before the election.
In Yuma County, a case of a voter trying to cast two ballots was sent to the county attorney for review. Chief Civil Vice President William Kerekus told the AP that there was no intent of voter fraud and the case was closed without charge.
Cochise County Recorder David Stevens found that ballot papers were received from two voters who died before mail ballots were sent in early October. Sheriff’s deputies, who investigated the cases, found their homes vacant and closed the cases. The votes were not counted.
Cassidy reported from Atlanta.