A unit to investigate allegations of election fraud created under Arizona’s former Republican Attorney General will focus on voting rights and access to votes under the newly elected Democratic Attorney General.
Democratic Attorney General Chris Mays told The Guardian to prioritize the unit’s “mission and resources” to focus on “protecting voter access and fighting voter suppression” instead of prosecuting allegations of voter fraud. Mayes won the November Attorney General election by just 280 votes over election-denying Hamada Abe and advanced to a state-mandated recount.
“Under the administration of my predecessor, the Election Integrity Unit conducted an extensive search for voter fraud and found scant evidence of it happening in Arizona,” Mays said in a statement. “That’s because cases of voter fraud are very rare.”
Mays also plans the unit to work to protect election officials who face threats of violence and intimidation. Nevertheless, it is intended to defend Arizona’s mail-in voting rights, which have been attacked by Republican lawmakers and state Republicans in recent years.
In 2019, the Republican-dominated Arizona legislature and then-Governor Doug Ducey added nearly $500,000 to the Office of the Attorney General’s Election Integrity Unit. The unit has filed numerous lawsuits, including charges against four Latino women living in rural Arizona, for collecting other people’s ballots, which is illegal in Arizona.
According to Mays’ office, it is not yet clear what will happen to the ongoing case, including ballot collection costs in Yuma County. A webpage created to allow complaints to be filed is still alive.
Jennifer Wright, who until recently headed the department under former Republican Attorney General Mark Brunovich, said the attorney who sent the county a letter criticizing the Maricopa County election and seeking to investigate the election. was. Shortly before Mays took control, Wright left the office.
Since its inception, the unit has been criticized by Democrats who considered its very existence unnecessary, questioned lawyers, and said it made false election claims. He criticized that sufficient measures were not taken against it. In one notable example, the unit investigated hundreds of claims cast by deceased people and found that only those who were claimed to be deceased voted under the names for which the votes were actually cast. We found one voter.
When Brnovich sought funding for the unit, his office defended the move as a way to protect the election and expose false claims of fraud.
Despite several full-time staff and hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual funding, the unit has not found widespread or organized voter fraud.20 cases brought in three years Most of the cases target isolated election law violations of individuals, such as using a deceased relative’s ballot or voting despite being ineligible to vote.
In a study published last year, The Washington Post found that the unit’s work did not increase people’s trust in the voting system, but “deepened suspicion among many who deny President Biden.” .
Brunovich was not available to comment on the unit and its fate under Mayes.
Other Republican-led states have similar anti-vote fraud units with much more staff than Arizona. The Virginia department includes more than 20 staff members transferred from other departments in the Attorney General’s Office to focus on election matters, and organizations such as the NAACP are trying to figure out what the department does. In Florida, the new office for electoral crimes launched by Gov. 20 people were arrested.