Why Is GOP-Led Arizona Stonewalling Trump’s Voter Fraud Commission?
Republican official claims rolls are in great shape, but at least one county has thousands improperly registered
Arizona is one of 14 states refusing to hand over any voter data to President Donald Trump’s commission on voter fraud, with its secretary of state writing in a letter to the vice chair of the commission that she is “skeptical” a review of her state’s voter roll would shed light on issues with voter registration and voting.
But in just one county in the state — Apache County — there are more names listed on the voter roll than people over the age of 18 who are living in the county.
The U.S. Census Bureau's estimate of the number of people living the county is 52,056 as of July 1, 2016. The county's elections office, meanwhile, reports that it has 52,831 voters on its roll — 101.5 percent of the population — and says on its website that it is intent on signing up more new voters.
It's unclear who else might be signed up to vote, given that there are 775 more people age 18 and over on the rolls than live in the county as it is, according to the census.
The situation is a serious red flag, according to election integrity watchdogs.
According to the Public Interest Legal Foundation, the percentage of people registered to vote should be somewhere between 70 and 90 percent of the 18-and-over population, in order to be assured that the roll is an accurate reflection of the people who are actually eligible to vote. Seventy-two percent is the national average, says the foundation's director of research, Logan Churchwell.
If Apache County, Arizona, had a 72 percent rate, it would have just 37,480 voters on the rolls — 15,000 fewer than it does.
It seems there is a problem in Apache County, and it's not a new one.
"They've been that way for years," says Churchwell, whose foundation has been studying voter rolls, and, in some cases, suing states and counties that fail to maintain them.
Apache County, Arizona, is a rural county in the northeastern corner of the state that is home to two Indian reservations — the Navajo Indian Reservation and the Fort Apache Indian Reservation. Navajo is spoken in more than half of homes. There is also a significant Spanish-speaking population.
In her July 3 letter to Kris Kobach, the vice chair of the president's voter fraud commission, Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan, a Republican, wrote that she did not view providing the state's voter roll to the commission as "reasonably related to" the commission's "desire to enhance citizens' confidence in the electoral process."
"Arizona diligently follows the voter registration list maintenance requirements under the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) and, through the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck program (IVRC), thoroughly investigates instances of double registrations or double voting across state lines. Thus I remain skeptical that Arizona's voter roll would shed light on any 'vulnerabilities and issues related to voter registration and voting' you appear to be investigating in other states."
Reagan could not be reached for comment, but a spokesman for her office, Matt Roberts, when asked about the more than 101 percent voter-registration rate in Apache County, fell silent, saying only, "Yep" and "OK."
He did not give any explanation for why there are likely thousands of ineligible voters on the roll in just one county in the state, or explain how this squares with Reagan's assurances in her letter that the state's roll is in good shape.
He did say, however, that Arizona did not view the letter from the commission requesting the voter data as a formal public records request, and that, if it were to receive an actual public records request, it would consider it differently.
He said the main reason for withholding the data, including names, addresses, birth dates and voting history, was that the letter stated that the information may be shared publicly, saying that state law does not allow Arizona "to transmit data to anyone who will transfer it or make it public."
But Reagan's letter began by saying, in so many words, that there is no problem with Arizona's voter roll, and thus no reason for the voter fraud commission to look at its information to begin with.
She said something similar in January on NBC's "Meet the Press," in a segment in which she and a Democratic secretary of state both rebutted President Donald Trump's tweet about millions of people having voted illegally in the 2016 election.
"Arizona's voting registration system is pretty cutting edge in the fact that every time we're registering somebody to vote we're bouncing against motor vehicle division to see what their citizenship status is," she told host Chuck Todd at the time. "So we're pretty confident in Arizona that we've got a wonderful system. In fact, I believe there's other states that are trying to copy it right now."
Arizona has done much more than most states to ensure that its voter roll is accurate. In fact, it fought hard to require proof of citizenship to register to vote. But it ultimately lost that battle in 2013 to groups funded by George Soros. So while the state requires proof of citizenship to be stapled to a state voter registration form, it is still required, as all states are, to accept the federal voter registration form, which does not require proof of citizenship, and on which a Social Security number is optional, not required.
"It's not used at the level of the state form," Roberts says of the federal form, though he was not able to provide the percentage of people on the voter rolls in Arizona who registered using the federal form versus the state form.
He said that if no proof of citizenship is provided with the federal form, county registrars are supposed to call the person and inform them that they will only be able to vote in federal elections, and not state and local elections.
Trump's original tweet about millions voting illegally was in reference to a federal election. (go to page 2 to continue reading)