Arizona Republicans Accuse Democrats of Special Election Voter Fraud Risk, Tell Voters to Report Abuses

Updated | The Republican Party in Arizona has claimed that Democrats could disrupt Tuesday’s special election by allowing people who aren’t registered to vote to cast ballots.

In Tuesday’s eighth congressional district special election, Debbie Lesko, a Republican state senator, will go up against Hiral Tipirneni, a Democrat and an emergency room physician. Political analysts and people nationwide are closely watching the race, especially as a recent poll put the two candidates within a percentage point of each other.

Arizona Republican Party Chairman Jonathan Lines wrote in an email to constituents on Monday night, “We have received alarming reports that the Democrat official who runs elections in Maricopa County has systematically failed to enforce the voter ID law in recent elections. As a result, your help is vital in making sure the upcoming election is free and fair.” The email told people to “keep your eyes peeled” and call the party “if you observe poll workers failing to check voters’ IDs.”

The email said constituents should not take matters into their own hands by approaching a fraudulent voter, photographing the polling place or staying at the polls after voting.

Related: Can Hiral Tipirneni Win Arizona’s Special Election

That “Democrat official” is Adrian Fontes, the Maricopa County Recorder. He could not immediately be reached for comment.

But the Maricopa County Democratic Party pushed back against the allegations. “It’s false. It’s absolutely untrue. The system is more secure and accountable than ever before,” said Steven Slugocki, chairman of the county party. “This is the same tired line that the Republican Party always uses to try to scare voters and undermine elections.”

Voters cannot cast ballots until a poll worker checks them in and runs their identification through the system, according to Slugocki. He pointed to the website for the Maricopa County Recorder, which says that voter identification is required at the polls. 

“By the end of the day, they’ll be talking about ‘illegal aliens’ voting and things like that,” he added. “They do that every time.”

04_24_Arizona_special_election_fraud Dr. Hiral Tipirneni, a candidate in the April 24 special election in Arizona, speaks with supporters in Surprise, Arizona on April 18. The state’s Republican party is warning of potential voter fraud. Gage Skidmore via flickr

The claims by the Arizona GOP echo those President Donald Trump has made. Despite winning the 2016 election, the president has claimed he lost the popular vote because millions of people voted illegally. He launched a commission to investigate the matter and tweeted as recently as January: “As Americans, you need identification, sometimes in a very strong and accurate form, for almost everything you do.....except when it comes to the most important thing, VOTING for the people that run your country. Push hard for Voter Identification!” He later shut down the commission.

Voter fraud is very rare, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan law and policy institute at New York University School of Law. “In the aftermath of a close election, losing candidates are often quick to blame voter fraud for the results,” said a 2007 report by the institute. “Allegations of widespread voter fraud, however, often prove greatly exaggerated.” The false claims can lead to restrictive requirements for identification and discourage legitimate voters from going to the polls, the report said.

“This is typical election day antics by the Arizona Republican Party,” Drew Anderson, senior communications adviser to Arizona’s Democratic Party, said in a statement. “It’s unfortunate, out of touch and emphasizes the chaos and dysfunction that has Arizonans fed up with what they are seeing from their elected officials. The AZGOP are abandoning their Arizona values to try and win an election. That kind of desperation is embarrassing.”

This article has been updated to include comments from the Arizona Democratic Party.