Arizona AG wary of vote fraud allegations
Brnovich responds to charges of irregular procedures
PHOENIX — Attorney General Mark Brnovich warned Monday that people “need to be really careful when making serious allegations’’ about election fraud or other issues or risk undermining democracy.
Brnovich’s comments came on the heels of the state formally certifying the results of last month’s election. There were no surprises in the legally required formality involving Brnovich, Gov. Doug Ducey, Secretary of State Michele Reagan and Supreme Court Chief Justice Scott Bales.
But the results come on the heels of charges by Jonathan Lines, chairman of the Arizona Republican Party, that there were irregularities in the procedures used. And Lines even has started his own party-financed “independent audit’’ of the practices in Maricopa County. Lines is from Yuma.
Ducey, as the top elected Republican in the state — and someone who got help from the state GOP — repeatedly dodged questions about the efforts by the party chairman to question the conduct of the vote.
“I refer you to Mr. Lines for those questions,’’ he said.
“We have had some concerns around certain issues,’’ Ducey continued. “But I’m not going to expand on that. I’m just going to say I’ll let his investigation or what he wants to focus on play out.’’
Brnovich, however, gave a somewhat more direct response to the question about the activities of Lines, though he didn’t mention the state GOP which also provided financial help for his own reelection effort.
“I think people need to be really, really careful when they make serious allegations,’’ he said. “One of the things I think that’s problematic in the country today is that people are undermining the integrity of institutions, all sorts of institutions.’’
But the attorney general said this isn’t just a problem of the GOP’s making.
“Both sides are doing it, and it needs to stop,’’ Brnovich said. “It’s why politics gets so nasty in this country.’’
Lines, in a prepared statement, defended his actions.
“It is important that voters have confidence that elections are conducted fairly and that is why the independent audit is currently being conducted,’’ he said.
And party spokeswoman Ayshia Connors said there is nothing to report yet on the audit that Lines launched of the practices of Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes after alleging voting “irregularities.’’
In setting up the audit, Lines said it would focus on “allegations of fraud in the election.’’
Lines, however, provided no examples. Instead, he said the party was hiring Attorney Stephen Richer set up a website for people who submit information.
“We are still gathering information,’’ Connors said Monday. “We will keep you posted.’’
The GOP move came after Republicans lost their stranglehold on all statewide elections.
While Ducey won handily, Democrats took over an open seat in the U.S. Senate as well as the offices of secretary of state and superintendent of public instruction. And one of the two seats up for grabs on what had been an all-Republican Arizona Corporation Commission also was clinched by a Democrat.
Republicans also lost four seats in the state House, reducing their margin to 31-29.
Other than general allegations of fraud, Lines wants his audit to also look into the decision of Fontes, a Democrat, to open “emergency voting centers’’ on the Saturday and Monday before the Nov. 6 election. Lines has questioned the legality of such centers, even though they have been operated before by Republican recorders.
And Lines wants to look at Election Day voting procedures, challenges, ballot counting and the process for reporting results.
At the formal canvass of votes Monday, Secretary of State Michele Reagan reported that statewide turnout was 2.4 million, or more than 64.8 percent of registered voters. While that was 17 points higher than the 2014 election, it did not set a statewide record, even for a midterm non-presidential election.
Reagan said, however, that new records for midterm elections were set in Coconino, Gila, Maricopa, Pima and Yavapai counties.
SECRETARY OF STATE MICHELE REAGAN AND GOV. DOUG DUCEY sign the formal certification of election results Monday as Attorney General Mark Brnovich, required to be there as a witness, observes.