July 23, 2021 12:20pm
Updated: July 23, 2021 11:41pm
Two top Arizona officials this week are squaring off over efforts to investigate and potentially prosecute voter fraud throughout the state, prolonging a months-long battle launched amid widespread reports of irregularities during the 2020 election.
The office of Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs this week responded to a request for voter fraud evidence from State GOP Attorney General Mark Brnovich by suggesting that Brnovich investigate a state GOP representative who has been criticized for alleged improper use of campaign funds.
Brnovich's office had written Hobbs earlier this month pointing out that her office had submitted no referrals for illegal voting activity from the past two election cycles, a markedly rare occurrence in the state.
"This is the first time in over a decade the AGO has received no referrals from the Secretary of State regarding double voting," the letter read, according to a copy obtained by the Arizona Republic.
The letter also reportedly indicated Brnovich's intent to investigate an alleged election pressure campaign run by Trump officials that Hobbs's office had asked the attorney general to look into.
In a sharp response this week from the Hobbs camp, state Election Services Director Sambo Dul urged Brnovich's office to mount an investigation into Arizona Rep. Mark Finchem, a Republican, over claims by Hobbs's office that he violated campaign finance law by mixing political funds with personal accounts.
The two state leaders appear to be at something of a deadlock, with Brnovich vowing to investigate the pressure campaign while seeking voter fraud data from Hobbs and Hobbs failing to hand over that data while demanding the attorney general investigate a Republican representative. Neither office responded to requests for comment on the controversy.
The clash, meanwhile, is a stark reminder of the bitter political divides that have riven the state — and the nation — since the November presidential election.
An election audit in the state's largest county, Maricopa, is drawing to a close. While auditors have reported finding evidence of significant irregularities, Maricopa County officials have adamantly refused to hand over county computer equipment the auditors claim is "critically important" for the overall investigation.
Democrats nationwide have argued that efforts to audit the 2020 election and pass voting reform laws meant to strengthen election security are merely pretexts to suppress the vote of Democrat-leaning racial and ethnic minorities.
President Joe Biden and other progressives have claimed that measures like mail-in-voting identification requirements and adjustments to early-voting schedules are functionally equivalent to the South's racial segregation laws of the early-to-mid 20th century.
Modest reform efforts in Georgia and Texas have generated intense backlash, with Major League Baseball earlier this year pulling its All-Star Game out of Atlanta in retaliation for Georgia's new election law, while earlier this month Texas Democrats fled the state for Washington, D.C., rather than allow a vote on an election reform bill to advance there.