Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich issued a report on Wednesday that claimed the office had not found evidence of widespread voter fraud or irregularities in the 2020 presidential election in Maricopa County.
However, the Attorney General did raise serious concerns about voting procedures in his interim report to Senate President Karen Fann. Brnovich claimed his office ‘has left no stone unturned in the aftermath of the 2020 election.” His report can be read in full below.
“Six months ago the Arizona Attorney General’s Office (the “Office”) received reports sent from the Arizona State Senate concerning its Maricopa County Forensic Election Audit,” Brnovich’s letter states. “In addition, the Attorney General’s Election Integrity Unit (EIU) has received and is reviewing additional complaints alleging election failures and potential misconduct that occurred in 2020.”
“Our team of EIU investigators and attorneys has now collectively spent thousands of hours reviewing the Senate’s audit reports and other complaints, conducting interviews, and analyzing Maricopa County’s election system and processes,” he continued. “We have reached the conclusion that the 2020 election in Maricopa County revealed serious vulnerabilities that must be addressed and raises questions about the 2020 election in Arizona.”
“As our state’s chief law enforcement officer, I am very concerned by any potential vulnerabilities in our state’s election systems, including those that the audit and other complaints have alleged,” he claimed. “The EIU’s review has uncovered instances of election fraud by individuals who have been or will be prosecuted for various election crimes.’ The EIU’s review is ongoing and we are therefore limited in what we can disclose about specific criminal and civil investigations. Thus, this interim repo1i will focus on what our office can presently share and the cunent status of our review.”
“We can report that there are problematic system-wide issues that relate to early ballot handling and verification,” he said. “The early ballot signature verification system in Maricopa County is insufficient to guard against abuse.”
“Moreover, our review has determined that in multiple instances, Maricopa County failed to follow critical procedures when transporting early ballots from drop locations to the election headquarters,” he added. “It is estimated that between 100,000 and 200,000 ballots were transported without a proper chain of custody. Because most voters in Arizona now choose to vote by early ballot, it is imperative that the processes for handling and verification of early ballots be strengthened before the 2022 elections per our recommendations below.”
“The Office’s investigation is still developing in material ways,” Brnovich went on. “The Office has been sending repeated requests for information from Maricopa County, and new information is coming in, including as recently as yesterday. This Interim Repoti comes at the six-month mark after the Senate sent its reports to the Attorney General. Investigations ( civil and criminal) of this magnitude and complexity take many months if not years to complete.”
“Mail-in voting is and has been a facet of Arizona law, but the opportunity for fraud increases the moment a ballot leaves the protective custody of the election official and enters the postal system,” Brnovich says later in the report.
“There must be stronger procedures in place for early-ballot signature verification, and those procedures need to be uniform across the state,” he adds. “Under state law, an early ballot is not complete, and cannot be counted, unless and until it includes a signature on the ballot affidavit.”
Brnovich also discussed the lack of ballots tossed due to mismatched signatures.
“During the 2020 General Election, Maricopa County saw a significant increase in the number of early ballots, receiving 1,908,067 early ballots (an increase of 723,276 early ballots),” he said. “Yet the number of early ballots rejected because of missing signatures continued its dramatic decrease (to only 1,455 ballots) and the number of early ballots rejected because of mismatched signatures increased only slightly (to 587 ballots). To be sure, Maricopa County has explained that the number of early ballots rejected for mismatched signatures during the 2020 General Election was impacted by the Legislature’s creation of a 5-day post-election cure period for mismatched signatures.”
“But the existence of that cure period in 2020 does not explain the dramatic decrease-on an absolute or percentage basis-of ballots with missing signatures from 2016 to 2020 or the dramatic decrease in early ballots with mismatched signatures from 2016 to 2018,” he added. “One possible explanation for these trends, and the AG acknowledges there could be others, is that Maricopa County became less diligent with signature review beginning in 2018.”
“Finally, we conclude that because signature verification is the most imp01iant current check on early ballots, there must be opp01iunities for pmiies’ election observers to meaningfully observe the signature verification process in real time and to raise objections if officials are not doing their jobs to actually and accurately verify signatures,’ Brnovich added. “The Legislature should act to ensure transparency on this check.”
“Maricopa County failed to follow the EPM procedures when transporting 20% of the early ballots from drop box locations to MCTEC,” he also noted. “And because the Secretary of State did not present the Attorney General a lawful EPM for approval in 2021, as required by A.R.S. § 16-452, there is currently no EPM in place governing the 2022 elections, exacerbating the issue for the upcoming election.”
The Attorney General also discussed the influence of private grants in Maricopa County, which he suggests are of dubious legality.
“To secure the purity of our elections, our laws prevent election officials and others f om influencing the manner in which electors choose to exercise their right to vote,” Brnovich said. “During the 2020 elections almost $8 million dollars of private, nongovernmental grant monies were used by Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, Maricopa County, and Pima County for various election purposes as outlined in a repoti prepared by the Arizona Auditor General dated March 30, 2022. We are carefully reviewing this report to determine if any election laws were violated through the use of these funds. Although our review is ongoing, our initial findings raise serious concerns regarding the legality of certain expenditures.”
The Attorney General also gave recommendations on future audits.
“In addition, the Legislature should enact legislation that expands the powers of the Auditor General to conduct future audits of election systems,” his report said. “The Auditor General is well positioned to perform this function and should be given the resources to handle such audits in house in a professional and prompt manner. The Auditor General should be given authority to request Attorney General assistance in obtaining documents and equipment in the possession and custody of state and local officials. Periodic audits performed by the Auditor General, with reports to the Legislature, will ensure that state and local officials are complying with the law, identify shortcomings, and foster confidence in our state’s election systems.”
Brnovich also gave suggestions on preventing future election wrongdoing.
“The Legislature should also consider increasing the penalties for election-related crimes and adding protections for whistleblowers,” he said. “Due to the difficulty in detecting ballot harvesting, the Legislature should review whether it should increase the classification of the felony for that crime.”
“The Legislature should also consider adding a crime where members of an organization, including a non-profit or non-governmental organization, that knew or should have known members (whether employees or volunteers) in their organization are engaged in widespread ballot harvesting are subject to criminal liability,” he continued.
“The Legislature should also enact specific criminal penalties for anyone who tampers with or damages a ballot-drop box in a way that could damage any ballots contained in such drop box,” he went on. “Finally, the Legislature should consider strengthening criminal penalties for failure to comply with a legislative subpoena or request by the Auditor General or Attorney General, and the Legislature should strengthen protections for whistleblowers who are aware of any potential wrongdoing. Such protections should be made retroactive, and permit whistleblowers to come forward with evidence related to past elections as well.”
The Attorney General’s report thus lays out that there were widespread irregularities, contrary to media reporting. Unfortunately, there has been a severe lack of accountability for those election infractions, which is the heart of the problem. Trump lost Arizona by fewer than 10,500 votes.