Arizona Finds Just 182 Cases of Potential Voter Fraud in 2020, Damaging Trump Claims

Election officials found 182 cases of potential voter fraud out of over three million ballots cast in Arizona' most populous county in the 2020 presidential election, the Associated Press reported. The low findings further weaken the claims of former President Donald Trump that the election was stolen in states like Arizona.

The 182 cases were flagged for demonstrating problems evident enough that they warranted further investigation. Only four charges have been filed in relation to the cases, while nobody has been convicted and no votes were found to have been counted twice, the Associated Press reported.

The final and approved results show that Biden received 10,400 more votes than Trump in the county, where 3.4 million total were cast, the Associated Press reported. More instances of potential voter fraud could be identified in the future, but it is unlikely that they could make a dent in the vote difference.

"The fact of the matter is that election officials across the state are highly invested in helping to ensure the integrity of our elections and the public's confidence in them," said Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat. "And part of that entails taking potential voter fraud seriously."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Voting Fraud
An Associated Press investigation has found county election officials throughout Arizona have identified fewer than 200 cases of potential voter fraud from last year's presidential election that require review by local prosecutors. In this Nov. 3, 2020, file photo voters deliver their ballot to a polling station in Tempe, Arizona. Matt York/AP Photo

AP's findings align with previous studies showing voter fraud is rare. Numerous safeguards are built into the system to not only prevent fraud from happening but to detect it when it does.

Arizona's potential cases also illustrate another reality: Voter fraud is often bipartisan. Of the four Arizona cases that have resulted in criminal charges, two involved Democratic voters and two involved Republicans.

AP's review supports statements made by many state and local elections officials—and even some Republican county officials and GOP Gov. Doug Ducey—that Arizona's presidential election was secure and its results valid.

And still, Arizona's GOP-led state Senate has for months been conducting what it describes as a "forensic audit" of results in Phoenix's Maricopa County. 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.

"This is not a massive issue," said Adrian Fontes, a Democrat who oversaw the Maricopa County election office during the 2020 election and lost his reelection bid. "It is a lie that has developed over time. It's been fed by conspiracy theorists."

The AP tallied the potential cases after submitting public record requests to all Arizona counties. Most counties—11 out of 15—reported they had forwarded no potential cases to local prosecutors. The majority of cases identified so far involve people casting a ballot for a relative who had died or people who tried to cast two ballots.

In addition to the AP's review of county election offices, an Election Integrity Unit of the state attorney general's office that was created in 2019 to ferret out fraud has been reviewing potential cases of fraud.

A spokesman for Attorney General Mark Brnovich told the AP in April the unit had 21 active investigations, although he did not specify if all were from last fall.

A month later, the office indicted a woman for casting a ballot on behalf of her dead mother in November. A spokeswoman declined to provide updated information this week.

Maricopa County, which is subject to the disputed ballot review ordered by state Senate Republicans, has identified just one case of potential fraud out of 2.1 million ballots cast. That was a voter who might have cast a ballot in another state. The case was sent to the county attorney's office, which forwarded it to the state attorney general.

Virtually all the cases identified by county election officials are in Pima County, home to Tucson, and involved voters who attempted to cast two ballots.

The Pima County Recorder's Office has a practice of referring all cases with even a hint of potential fraud to prosecutors for review, something the state's 14 other county recorders do not do. Pima County officials forwarded 151 cases to prosecutors. They did not refer 25 others from voters over age 70 because there was a greater chance those errors—typically attempts to vote twice—were the result of memory lapses or confusion, not criminal intent, an election official said.

None of the 176 duplicate ballots was counted twice. A spokesman for the Pima County Attorney's Office, Joe Watson, said Wednesday the 151 cases it received were still being reviewed and that no charges had been filed.

Pima County's tally was in line with previous elections, but there were some new patterns this year, said deputy recorder Pamela Franklin. An unusually high number of people appeared to have intentionally voted twice, often by voting early in person and then again by mail. In Arizona, where nearly 80 percent of voters cast ballots by mail, it's not unusual for someone to forget they returned their mail-in ballot and then later ask for a replacement or try to vote in person, she said. But this pattern was new.

Franklin noted several factors at play, including worries about U.S. Postal Service delays. In addition, Trump at one point encouraged voters who cast their ballots early by mail to show up at their polling places on Election Day and vote again if poll workers couldn't confirm their mail ballots had been received.

The results in Arizona are similar to early findings in other battleground states. Local election officials in Wisconsin identified just 27 potential cases of voter fraud out of 3.3 million ballots cast last November, according to records obtained by the AP under the state's open records law. Potential voter fraud cases in other states where Trump and his allies mounted challenges have so far amounted to just a tiny fraction of Trump's losing margin in those states.

The Associated Press conducted the review following months of Trump and his allies claiming without proof that he had won the 2020 election. His claims of widespread fraud have been rejected by election officials, judges, a group of election security officials and even Trump's own attorney general at the time. Even so, supporters continue to repeat them and they have been cited by state lawmakers as justification for tighter voting rules across the country.

In Arizona, Republican state lawmakers have used the unsubstantiated claims to justify the unprecedented outside Senate review of the election in Maricopa County and to pass legislation that could make it harder for infrequent voters to receive mail ballots automatically.

Senate President Karen Fann has repeatedly said her goal is not to overturn the election results. Instead, she has said she wants to find out if there were any problems and show voters who believe Trump's claims whether they should trust the results.

"Everybody keeps saying, 'Oh, there's no evidence' and it's like, 'Yeah well, let's do the audit.' And if there's 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, then we can say, 'OK, we do have evidence and now how do we fix this?'" Fann did not return calls this week to discuss the AP findings.

Aside from double voting, the cases flagged by officials mostly involved a ballot cast after someone had died, including three voters in Yavapai County who face felony charges for casting ballots for spouses who died before the election.

In Yuma County, one case of a voter attempting to cast two ballots was sent to the county attorney for review. Chief Civil Deputy William Kerekus told the AP there was no intent at voter fraud and the case was closed without charges.

Cochise County Recorder David Stevens found mail-in ballots were received from two voters who died before mail ballots were sent in early October. Sheriff's deputies investigating the cases found their homes were vacant and closed the cases. The votes were not counted.

Arizona Voting
President Joe Biden won 10,400 more votes than former President Donald Trump out of 3.4 million cast in Arizona's final, certified and audited results. In this Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020 file photo, volunteers help voters as voters drop off their ballots at the Maricopa County Recorder's Office in Phoenix. Ross D. Franklin/AP Photo