Amid accusations of widespread malfeasance in elections leveled without evidence by President Donald Trump and other Republicans, the Arizona attorney general is hiring four people dedicated to investigating alleged voter fraud.
According to his spokesman, Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich isn’t setting out to find support for those claims. Instead, the goal is to give people confidence in the outcome of elections – even if that means his new investigators find little or no wrongdoing. Brnovich has $530,000 for the project, courtesy of the budget signed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey.
“Consider us the `MythBusters’ of election fraud claims and rumors,” said Ryan Anderson, a spokesman for Brnovich. “If there is fraud, let’s investigate it, let’s prosecute it and work to eradicate it,” Anderson said. “If there’s not fraud, then let’s give the public the confidence they deserve in their elections.”
While not everyone believes it is a worthwhile endeavor, Democratic election officials are cautiously on board.
“This is a circumstance where there’s not a clear plan to address a documented need, so we shouldn’t be spending that money,” said Alex Gulotta, Arizona director for All Voting is Local, which advocates for reduced barriers to voting. “It seems like a case of misguided priorities.”
Co-President of the League of Women Voters in Arizona, Terri Farneti echoed that sentiment by stating that money should be spent on election security.
Recently, rumors have swirled surrounding the idea that elections in Arizona contain a great deal of fraud, following an extremely close 2018 election that saw Democrats win a U.S. Senate seat and several statewide offices they haven’t controlled in decades.
Democrat Adrian Fontes said he would “provide any assistance we can” to Brnovich’s unit, and also stated that it would be great to have a respected and objective unit to partner with in restoring confidence in election systems.
“If this unit will help maintain the integrity of Arizona’s elections and election systems, then I am all for it,” Fontes said in a statement.
A Democrat who oversees elections statewide as the secretary of state, Katie Hobbs said this is an opportunity to boost confidence in elections without diverting money from other election purposes.
“They said that they want to show that the system is not plagued by fraud,” Hobbs said. “So I’m taking that at face value.”
Dating back to 2010, 22 voting fraud cases have been successfully prosecuted by the attorney general’s office, most of them people who voted in more than one state. The office received a handful of specific allegations of potential fraud from the 2018 election, but no charges have been filed, according to Anderson.
The money comes from Arizona’s $37.1 million share of a settlement with Wells Fargo over fake accounts and other violations. Brnovich envisions an “election integrity unit” employing a senior attorney, a paralegal, an investigator certified as a law enforcement officer and a forensic auditor.
They’ll create an online form where people can submit specific allegations of voter fraud, and they’ll be discouraged from reporting anonymously. Investigators will look into complaints and will probe publicly reported irregularities but won’t be harvesting databases looking for trouble where none is alleged, Anderson said.
“With criminal investigations, you don’t go out and just look for stuff to do,” he said. “I think that’s an important component of our form of government.”
When they’re not busy with voter fraud complaints, they’ll spend time working on public corruption investigations.