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Arizona prosecutors want 66-year-old grandmother to go to jail for collecting 4 ballots in 2020

A parade of character witnesses on Thursday provided a judge with glowing reports about a Southern Arizona woman who admitted to collecting four early ballots in the 2020 primary election as her attorney sought leniency and prosecutors called her a imprisoned for a year. Testimony in Yuma County Superior Court painted a picture of Guillermina Fuentes Full of remorse and a pillar of the small frontier community of San Luis.

Witnesses said the 66-year-old mother and grandmother have spent their lives raising their children, caring for their aging mother and helping others build a business.

Jail or jail time, he said, would hurt the community and serve no purpose.

Fuentes is a school board member and former mayor in San Luis who has pleaded guilty to a felony violation of Arizona “ballot harvestinglaw, which prohibits a person’s relative, housewife or caregiver from returning the ballot to them. Her codefendant, Alma Juárez, pleaded guilty to the same charge, but it was removed after agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors. was designated as a misdemeanor.

His settlement calls for a sentence of probation. He took four ballots, Fuentes gave him in a polling place and left them.

Republicans seize the case as widely indicated voting fraudBut it is the only “ballot harvesting” case under Arizona’s 2016 law banning the practice, and less than a dozen cases since the 2020 election have been reported in a state where more than 3.1 million votes were cast. .

Guillermina Fuentes is seen in an undated photo released by the Arizona Attorney General's office.
Guillermina Fuentes

AP. Via Arizona Attorney General’s Office


In states where this practice is legal, volunteers or campaign workers can go directly to voters’ homes, collect completed ballots, and drop them off in mass at polling places or election offices. In some states, ballot harvesters may be paid hourly for ballot collecting work.

Sherri Castillo, a defense mitigation expert who interviewed Fuentes and others in the community, told the court Thursday that their community involvement and volunteer work is hard to adequately describe.

“That embarrasses me, I can tell you,” Castillo said. “I’ve never met anyone who gives more back to the community than Ms. Fuentes.”

“Ms. Fuentes not being in the community will hurt the community,” she said.

Others who testified before Judge Roger Nelson included county probation officers, who recommended no jail time in their report, a Yuma County supervisor and former state senator who has known Fuentes for years, and a retired San. Louis police officers who have known him since 1971. The two grew up in the then small border community and now work with him on a local school board.

“I think a lot of us in our community see him,” said retired police officer Luis Marquez.

Assistant Attorney General Todd Lawson is seeking one year in prison for Fuentes, telling Nelson that the case is about the security of elections and a 2016 Arizona law that excludes “ballot harvesting.” This is the first prosecution under that law, which was justified by the US Supreme Court last year.

He said Fuentes and Juárez were caught on video checking four-voted ballots by a political opponent outside a vote center, questioning what they were doing.

Lawson told the judge, “The question is why (Fuentes) feels the need to put pressure on people in their community and control the flow of their ballot into the ballot box.” “It’s an issue of public integrity here.”

Prosecutors alleged in court papers that Fuentes used his position in Democratic politics in San Luis to run a sophisticated operation to persuade voters to collect him and in some cases fill out their ballots. But he dropped the more serious charges of conspiracy and forgery, and both pleaded guilty to the same count of ballot misuse.

A defense expert researching election law matters in Arizona testified that no one with a clean record has been given a prison or prison sentence in the past 20 years. Fuentes’ attorney Anne Chapman told Nelson that doing so would be a miscarriage of justice.

“She filed a plea of ​​guilty for abuse of voting — that is, distributing four legally-voted, signature-verified ballots,” Chapman said. “The rest of the allegations against Ms Fuentes are untrue, baseless, unproven and made largely by election-denial political opponents who have a political ax to grind.”

Nelson’s court assistant had previously told in an email to lawyers in the case that he “intends to give him 30 days in prison.” He fixed the next week’s sentence for both women.

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