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Two Indicted In Ballot Harvesting Scheme In Arizona

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


Two people have been indicted in Arizona as part of a vote harvesting scheme in Yuma County. Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said the scheme occurred during the 2020 election, The Epoch Times reported.

Gloria Lopez Torres and Nadia Guadalupe Lizarraga-Mayorquin, both of San Luis, face charges of conspiracy and ballot abuse, said the attorney general in a news release. Ballot harvesting is considered a class 6 felony. Lopez Torres, notably, is currently a sitting San Luis Council member, according to local media. They are accused of conducting a scheme to collect “early ballots from other voters” and deposit them in a ballot box during the state’s primary election in August 2020.

Torres is accused of collecting seven ballots from Lizarraga-Mayorquin, according to grand jury indictments (pdf) (pdf) that were returned earlier this month. Lizarraga-Mayorquin collected at least one ballot from a third party that was not disclosed.

“Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced that Gloria Lopez Torres of San Luis, and Nadia Guadalupe Lizarraga-Mayorquin of San Luis, also known as Nadia Buchanan, have been charged by the State Grand Jury with Conspiracy and Ballot Abuse arising from an alleged ‘ballot harvesting’ scheme, where early ballots from other voters were collected and deposited into a ballot box on primary Election Day, August 4, 2020. The City of San Luis held municipal elections on that date,” the attorney general’s office said on its website.

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“The Grand Jury indictments, returned on October 3, 2022, alleging that Torres collected seven ballots from Lizarraga-Mayorquin and that Lizarraga-Mayorquin collected at least one ballot from a third party.

“Arizona law only provides for a family member, household member, or caregiver of the voter to collect voted or unvoted early ballots from another person. Under Arizona law, ballot harvesting is a class 6 felony. This investigation was conducted by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office Special Investigations Section, Election Integrity Unit. Assistant Attorney General Todd Lawson is prosecuting this case,” it said.

Last week a former Democratic mayor in Arizona was sentenced after being convicted on ballot harvesting charges connected to the 2020 election.

According to reports, Guillermina Fuentes, 66, was sentenced to 30 days in jail and two years probation on Thursday after a judge rejected her plea for leniency and just probation, saying he did not believe she has fully accepted responsibility for her actions.

Fuentes is a school board member and former mayor of the small border town of San Luis. Her case caught the attention of authorities during the August 2020 primary “and eventually led to charges against Fuentes and another San Luis woman,” The Associated Press reported. She pleaded guilty to collecting four early voting ballots in the primary.

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Separately, the AP added that she “has pleaded guilty to a felony violation of Arizona’s ‘ballot harvesting’ law, which bars anyone but a person’s relative, housemate or caregiver from returning ballots for them. Her codefendant, Alma Juarez, pleaded guilty to the same charge, but it was designated as a misdemeanor after she agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.”

Assistant Attorney General Todd Lawson sought a year in prison for Fuentes, arguing before Judge Roger Nelson that the case is really about ensuring safe and fair elections under the law. Hers is the first case prosecuted under the 2016 law, which was upheld last year by the U.S. Supreme Court, the AP added.

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“Nelson told Fuentes that despite a parade of character witnesses and a probation officer who wrote a pre-sentence report saying in court last week that she was remorseful, Nelson said he didn’t believe it, and then quoted from the report,” the AP noted further.

“The defendant acknowledged responsibility for carrying ballots for someone else. However, she stated, ‘I’m not a criminal,’” Nelson read. “Well, you are a criminal. You committed a criminal offense. I don’t think you recognize that as a criminal offense. That’s the problem that I have.”

The judge acknowledged the parade of character witnesses from the community who spoke in defense of Fuentes as her attorneys argued for a sentence of just probation. However, Nelson said that also weighed mightily on his decision to put her behind bars.

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“Many of the things that were put forward as mitigating factors, I think they’re also aggravating factors,” he said. “You have been a leader in the San Luis community for a long time. People look up to you, people respect you, and they look to what you do.”

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