Gosh, Wonder Why Arizona's Republican AG Sat On Report Showing No Vote Fraud?
As yet another regular reminder that you should never trust Republicans when their lips are moving (or at any other time), the Washington Post reports (free gift linky) that former Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich ordered his staff to do a comprehensive investigation back in 2021 of claims of fraud and irregularities and shenanigans and HOOPLA in Arizona's administration of the 2020 election. So how did that turn out, exactly?
Investigators prepared a report in March 2022 stating that virtually all claims of error and malfeasance were unfounded, according to internal documents reviewed by The Washington Post. Brnovich, a Republican, kept it private.
Instead of releasing the full report that debunked the Big Lie many Arizona Republicans fervently believed in, and ran on in the midterms, Brnovich issued a bogus "Interim Report" that just plain lied about the investigation, claiming it turned up "serious vulnerabilities" in Arizona's election processes.
Oh, yes, it gets worse, too: not only did that "interim" report leave out "edits from his own investigators refuting his assertions," Brnovich then sat on a second report from his investigators in September last year, an "Election Review Summary" that once again "systematically refuted accusations of widespread fraud and made clear that none of the complaining parties -- from state lawmakers to self-styled 'election integrity' groups -- had presented any evidence to support their claims."
Brnovich never released it. It only came to light after Arizona voters elected Democrat Kris Mayes to replace Brnovich. Mayes released the documents to the Post this week in response to a request from the paper. The Post notes that Mayes "said she considered the taxpayer-funded investigation closed[.]" Hooray for sunshine!
The story also says Mayes has let leaders in Maricopa County know the state is no longer investigating the county's election processes. Wingnut World has focused much of its rage on Maricopa, since it's the state's most populous, and is where all those liberal RINO city slickers who think they're better than you obviously rigged the election for Biden. How could a large, diverse metro area possibly have voted blue without cheating?
Trump-endorsed dipshit Kari Lake has also accused Maricopa County officials of cheating her out of a win in the governor's race last fall, either by incompetence or outright theft.
The Post explains that Brnovich advanced bullshit claims about the 2020 vote in Maricopa "that his own staff considered inaccurate." As the story puts it as delicately as possible, the documents also "suggest" that Brnovich and his team "privately disregarded fact checks provided by state investigators while publicly promoting incomplete accounts of the office’s work."
The story paints Brnovich as a wishy-washy mainstreamish Republican who immediately after the election said Trump lost, and even stood up to Trump's attempts to get the vote thrown out. But in the run-up to last year's GOP primary for US Senate, which he lost to eventual nominee Blake Masters, Brnovich tried playing in the MAGA sandbox.
On wingnut radio, Brnovich promoted his bullshit "interim report" — the one prepared after the real report found no evidence of fraud — and hinted that "It’s frustrating for all of us, because I think we all know what happened in 2020."
That interim report was red meat to election deniers, who were certain it was proof of rampant cheating. Delivering it to then-state Senate President Karen Fann (R), Brnovich wrote in a cover letter that investigators had found "problematic system-wide issues that relate to early ballot handling and verification."
No they hadn't. They wrote on a draft of the letter that "We did not uncover any criminality or fraud having been committed in this area during the 2020 general election."
For some dark depressing larffs, see the full draft of the "interim report" (no paywall) with portions of Brnovich's text highlighted in yellow and the investigators' NO WE DID NOT, FUCKSTICK replies in blue. For instance, Brnovich suggests maybe Maricopa County didn't do a very good job of verifying signatures on mail-in ballots. There's a note politely pointing out that the county hired a handwriting expert to train staff, and that they had a process to escalate iffy cases for further review. Brnovich claimed Maricopa County didn't always reply to requests for records. The staff said YEAH THEY DID, YOU PUKE (a loose paraphrase).
Surprise, surprise: hardly any of their notes made it into the revision.
In September last year, a bit more than a month after Brnovich lost the Senate primary to Masters, Brnovich's investigators wrote up an eight-page memo titled "Election Review Summary" that explained they received 638 complaints about the 2020 election, of which 430 were worth investigating. (The memo doesn't say what sort of complaints they rejected; we'll just speculate that any claims Maricopa County was infested with communists, demons, and pedophiles weren't given too much credence. But there we go making up excuses for the cover-up.)
Out of the 430 investigations, just 22 cases went to prosecutors, and a whopping two cases of felons who voted illegally ended in convictions. The investigators also noted that "high profile allegations" of widespread fraud by groups like Cyber Ninjas, True the Vote, and from various politicians didn't amount to a hill of beans. Cyber Ninjas, the outfit that did the months-long fraudit of Maricopa ballots, claimed to have turned up a long list of allegedly dead voters whose votes were counted, but "no one on the list of dead voters was dead, nor had they voted."
And so on.
Mark Finchem, the Trump-endorsed election denier who lost his bid for secretary of state, claimed an unnamed "source" tipped him off to 30,000 fake votes in Pima County, home to Tucson, but he curiously didn't tell the investigators this, "specifically stating he did not have any evidence of fraud and he did not wish to take up our time." Finchem did provide four absentee ballots that had been sent to people who had moved from the addresses where they were sent, but the memo notes that the Postal Service doesn't forward ballots, the envelopes weren't opened, and Maricopa County hadn't received any change of address information from the voters who'd moved. Fraud!
Again, Brnovich never made public any of these findings, even though the real report was ready in plenty of time for the midterms, in which virtually all the statewide Republican candidates promoted lies about massive fraud in 2020. Might have been useful information for voters, as Mayes, the new AG, pointed out:
“The people of Arizona had a right to know this information before the 2022 election,” Mayes said in an interview. “Maricopa County election officials had a right to know that they were cleared of wrongdoing. And every American had a right to know that the 2020 election in Arizona, which in part decided the presidency, was conducted accurately and fairly.”
Mayes has pledged to refocus the AG office's "election integrity" task force. Under Brnovich, it had been sent to look for election fraud, and found practically none. Mayes thinks it would be a much better use of taxpayer funds for her office to ensure people are all able to vote, so the task force will now be weeding out illegal barriers to voting.
God damn, we love a happy ending.
[WaPo (gift link) / Photo (cropped): Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons License 2.0]
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