Arizona woman admits fault in ballot collection campaign

One arizona woman Those accused of illegal early ballot collecting in the 2020 primary election pleaded guilty on Thursday in a settlement with state prosecutors, dismissing the more serious forgery and conspiracy charges and punishable by lengthy prison sentences. Capacity has been limited.

Guillermina Fuentes, 66, could receive probation for running what investigators said in the Arizona attorney general’s office, using her position as a well-known Democratic operative in the border city of San Luis to mobilize voters to help her and in some cases. There was a sophisticated operation to persuade him to fill in. their ballots out.

Prosecutors were apparently unable to prove the most serious charges, dropping three felony charges alleging that Fuentes filled out a voter’s ballot and forged signatures on some of the four ballots, which illegally implied such people. who were not family members.

Republicans, who have rallied around the potential for widespread voting fraud in the 2020 election where former President Trump was defeated, pointed to the allegations against Fuentes as part of a wider pattern on the battlefield. But there is no sign that his illegal ballot collection has overtaken small-town politics, which involved Fuentes.

Fuentes and a second woman were indicted in December 2020 on a count of ballot misuse, commonly known as “ballot harvesting”, which was made illegal under a 2016 state law. Charges of conspiracy, forgery and an additional ballot misappropriation were added last October against Fuentes.

Fuentes said little during a change in plea hearing in southwestern Arizona’s Yuma County on Thursday, acknowledging the judge’s questions with a “yes” asking whether he had read and understood the plea agreement.

Fuentes, a former San Luis mayor who serves as an elected board member of the Gadsden Elementary School District in San Luis, could face up to two years in prison, but it required a judge to know the dire circumstances. will need to be installed. The plea agreement leaves the actual punishment to a judge, who can give him probation, home imprisonment and a hefty fine for admission to illegally collecting and returning four-vote ballots.

Sentencing was set for June 30. She would lose her voting rights and would have to leave the elected office.

Attorney Anne Chapman said in an email Thursday that she has not commented on the allegations against her client.

But she criticized Arizona’s ballot collection law, saying it hinders minority voters who have historically relied on others to help them vote. She said “this prosecution demonstrates that the law is part of an ongoing anti-democratic, statewide and national voter suppression effort.”

Records from the attorney general’s office of investigation obtained by the Associated Press through a public records request show that fewer than a dozen ballots may have been tied to Fuentes, not enough to differentiate all but most. Strict local race.

The office of Republican Attorney General Mark Branovich, seeking his party’s US Senate nomination, provided the record after a delay of more than 15 months.

It is the only case brought by the attorney general under the 2016 “ballot harvesting” law, which was upheld by the US Supreme Court last year.

Investigators wrote that it appeared that Fuentes used his position as a powerful figure in the overwhelmingly Mexican-American community to get people to vote for him or others to return to the polls. Fuentes and his co-defendants were seen with multiple mail-in envelopes outside a cultural center in San Luis on the day of the 2020 primary election, reports show. Ballots were taken inside and dropped in a ballot box.

He was videotaped by a write-in candidate who called the Yuma County Sheriff. Reports said the video showed him marking at least one ballot paper, but that charge was among those dropped.

An investigation was launched that day, and around 50 ballots were checked for fingerprints, which were inconclusive. The investigation was taken over by the attorney general’s office within days, with investigators cooperating with the sheriff’s deputies to interview voters, Fuentes and others.

Although Fuentes was charged with actions that only appeared on videotape and involved only a handful of ballots, investigators believe the effort went a long way.

Investigator William Kluth of the Attorney General’s Office wrote in a report that there was some evidence that Fuentes actively campaigned for the San Luis neighborhood and collected ballots, in some cases paying for them.

Collecting ballots in this manner was a common get-out-the-vote tactic by both political parties before Arizona passed the 2016 law. Paying for ballots has never been legal.

There is no indication that he or anyone else in Yuma County collected ballots in the general election, but investigators from the attorney general’s office are still active in the community.

The Arizona Republic reported Tuesday that a search warrant was issued last month at a nonprofit in San Luis. The group’s executive director, chairman of the Yuma County Board of Supervisors, said the warrant sought the cell phone of a San Luis council woman who may have been involved in illegal ballot collection.

And at a legislative hearing on Tuesday where election conspiracy theorists testified, the Yuma primary election case was a highlight again.

“It’s about corruption in San Luis and skewing the city council election,” said Yuma Republican Representative Tim Dunn. “It’s been going on for a long time, that you can’t have free and fair elections in South County for decades. And it’s spreading across the country.”

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