Republicans across the country have embraced an aggressive tactic this year as they seek to tout baseless claims that voter fraud is a serious threat: arming state agencies with more power and resources to investigate election crimes.
Virginia’s Republican attorney general earlier this month announced a new election integrity unit staffed with more than 20 attorneys and investigators “to increase transparency and strengthen confidence in our state elections.” Georgia legislators recently empowered the statewide police agency to launch election probes. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) last month described the arrests of 20 people for alleged illegal voting as the “opening salvo” of a new elections police force.
But a Washington Post examination of an earlier endeavor in Arizona to systematically ferret out voter fraud found it has turned up few cases — and that rather than bolster confidence in elections, the absence of massive fraud has just fueled more bogus theories and distrust.
After investigating thousands of complaints in the last three years, a special unit in the Arizona attorney general’s office created to crack down on illegal voting and other election-related crimes has prosecuted just 20 cases in a state of more than 4 million voters. The total represents a slight increase from the 16 cases brought by the office in a previous six-year period, according to court filings and hundreds of pages of public records.
Most prosecutions are small-bore, isolated cases of illegal voting, such as six felons who cast ballots though their voting rights were not restored, and three women who turned in ballots for their mothers, who had recently died.
Some Republicans who have falsely claimed voter fraud is rampant now say the limited number of prosecutions shows that the unit is not doing its job. Leading supporters of former president Donald Trump in Arizona, including the Republican nominees for governor, attorney general and secretary of state, are pushing to allocate even more resources to rooting out election crimes.
Arizona’s experience shows the damaging consequences that can result when public officials use their power to reinforce false claims that voter fraud is a significant issue in American elections. Rather than reassure citizens about the strength of the Arizona voting systems, the state’s election crimes unit deepened suspicions among many of those who deny President Biden won and sapped government resources, The Post’s review found. [Continue reading…]