(AP) — Out of more than 3 million ballots cast in last year's presidential election
county election officials have identified fewer than 200 cases of potential voter fraud
, undermining former President Donald Trump
's claims of a stolen election as his supporters continue a disputed ballot review in the state's most populous county.
An Associated Press investigation
discovered 182 cases where problems were obvious enough that officials referred them to investigators for further review; so far, only four cases have resulted in charges, including those identified in a separate state investigation; no one has been convicted; and no one's vote has been counted twice.
While more cases may emerge, the figures demonstrate the implausibility of Trump's claims that fraud and irregularities in Arizona cost him the state's electorate votes
: in final, certified, and audited results, Biden
received 10,400 more votes than Trump out of 3.4 million cast.
The findings of the AP are consistent with previous studies that show voter fraud is uncommon. Numerous safeguards are built into the system to not only prevent but also detect fraud when it occurs.
“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,” Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs
, a Democrat, said.
Arizona's potential cases also highlight another reality: voter fraud is frequently bipartisan; two of the four Arizona cases that have resulted in criminal charges involved Democratic voters
, while the other two involved Republicans
The AP's investigation backs up statements made by many state and local election officials, as well as some Republican county officials and GOP
Gov. Doug Ducey, that Arizona's presidential election was secure and the results were valid.
Still, Arizona’s Republican-led state Senate
has been conducting what it calls a “forensic audit” of Maricopa County
election results for months. The effort has been discredited by election experts and has drawn 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
but lost his re-election bid. “It is a lie that has developed over time
, fed by conspiracy
The Associated Press tallied the potential cases after submitting public record
requests to all Arizona counties. The majority of counties — 11 out of 15 — reported that no potential cases had been forwarded to local prosecutors. The majority of cases identified thus far involve people voting
for a deceased relative or people attempting to cast two ballots.
In addition to the AP's review of county election offices, the state attorney general
's office's Election Integrity Unit, which was established in 2019 to combat fraud, has been investigating potential cases of fraud.
, a spokesman for Attorney General Mark Brnovich told the AP that the unit had 21 active investigations, but he did not say whether all of them were from last fall.
A month later, the office
indicted a woman for voting on behalf of her deceased mother in November, according to a spokeswoman who declined to provide updated information this week.
Maricopa County, which is subject to the contested ballot review ordered by state Senate Republicans, has identified only one case of potential fraud out of 2.1 million ballots cast, involving a voter who may 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.
Almost all of the cases identified by county election officials occurred in Pima County, which includes Tucson, and involved voters who attempted to vote twice.
The Pima County Recorder's Office has a policy of referring all cases with even a smidgeon of potential fraud to prosecutors for review, which the state's 14 other county recorders do not do. Pima County officials forwarded 151 cases to prosecutors, but did not refer 25 others from voters over the age of 70 because there was a greater chance those errors — typically attempts to vote twice — were the rogue vote.
A spokesman for the Pima County Attorney's Office, Joe Watson, said Wednesday that the 151 cases received were still being reviewed and that no charges had been filed.
The tally in Pima County was consistent with previous elections, but there were some new patterns this year, according to deputy recorder Pamela Franklin, who said an unusually high number of people appeared to have voted twice, often by voting early in person and then again by mail. In Arizona, where nearly 80% of voters cast ballots by mail, it's not uncommon for someone to forget they returned their mail-item ballot.
Franklin cited several factors, including concerns about U.S. Postal Service delays. Furthermore, Trump encouraged voters who voted early by mail to return to their polling places on Election Day
and vote again if poll workers couldn't confirm their mail ballots had been received.
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 battleground states
where Trump and his allies mounted challenges have so far amou
The Associated Press conducted the review after months of Trump and his allies claiming without proof that he had won the 2020 election. His claims of widespread fraud were rejected at the time by election officials, judges
, a group of election security
officials, and even Trump's own attorney general. Nonetheless, supporters continue to repeat them, and they have been cited by state lawmakers.
In Arizona, Republican state legislators used unsubstantiated claims to justify an unprecedented outside Senate review of the Maricopa County election and to pass legislation that could make it more difficult for infrequent voters to receive mail ballots automatically.
Senate President Karen
Fann has stated repeatedly that her goal is not to overturn the election results, but rather to determine whether there were any flaws and whether voters who believe Trump's claims should trust the results.
“Everyone keeps saying, ‘Oh, there’s no evidence,’ and it’s like, ‘Yeah, 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?
Aside from double voting, the cases flagged by officials mostly involved a ballot cast after someone had died, such as three Yavapai County voters facing 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 referred to the county attorney for review, and Chief Civil Deputy William Kerekus told the Associated Press that there was no intent to commit voter fraud, and the case was closed without charges.
Cochise County Recorder David Stevens discovered mail-in ballots from two voters who died before mail ballots were sent in early October. Sheriff's deputies investigating the cases discovered the voters' homes were vacant and closed the cases; the votes were not counted.
Cassidy was in Atlanta
at the time of the report.