WASHINGTON – Arizona lawmakers defended themselves and the state this week against President Donald Trump’s charges that millions of fraudulent votes were cast in November, saying they had seen no evidence of illegal voters in Arizona.
The president reportedly said in a meeting with lawmakers Monday that he would have won the popular vote if not for 3 million to 5 million illegal votes that were cast, echoing a November tweet by Trump that “millions of people … voted illegally.”
While he won office on the strength of the Electoral College vote, Trump trailed Democrat Hillary Clinton by more than 2.8 million ballots in the popular vote.
Critics immediately questioned the president’s claims of illegal voting and challenged the White House to produce evidence of fraud, saying there were no reports of fraud on any such scale in November.
Election officials contacted in Arizona, all of them Republicans, agreed with that position, saying they got no inkling of voter fraud in their elections.
A previous version of this story misspelled the first name of Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan. The story has been corrected, but clients who used earlier versions are asked to run the correction that can be found here.
“I don’t think anybody’s got any data to prove it at this point,” Pinal County Recorder Virginia Ross said Wednesday. “I’m not sure what he’s referring to, and if he’s talking about other states where people haven’t proven their eligibility, I can’t speak to that.”
Mohave County Recorder Kristi Blair said that she did not see any evidence of fraud, a fact that she chalks up to the state’s strict citizenship laws. If any state had an issue with illegal voters in November, it was certainly not Arizona, she said, pointing to the state law requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote and the “extra layer of checks because of our citizenship issues.”
“You have to prove citizenship in Arizona to be able to vote, so I would like to say that as far as I know, we don’t let any illegals vote or count any illegal votes,” Blair said.
Joel Edman, executive director of the Arizona Advocacy Group, said the idea of millions committing voter fraud is far-fetched, noting that doing so is a felony and “we do a really good job of weeding out people who are not eligible to vote.”
He believes fraud claims are usually just a “prelude to some sort of way to crack down on voter rights.”
“We’ve seen in Arizona and across the country that when officials start talking about these things, they’re trying to make it harder on people who already have a hard time trying to vote, like students, poor people, voters of color or seniors who may not have ID,” Edman said.
Chris Carson, president of the League of Women Voters, called voter fraud reports “a myth.”
“There is no need for an investigation into a non-existent problem,” Carson said in a statement Wednesday. “The issue has been studied and put to rest.”
But Trump said in a series of tweets Wednesday morning that he would be asking for “a major investigation into voter fraud,” including cases of dead people voting and people casting ballots in more than one state, among other problems, with an eye toward strengthening voting procedures.
Michael Waldman, president of New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, called such an investigation a waste of time and money.
“There is no evidence of massive voter fraud – none,” Waldman said in a statement Wednesday. “The notion that millions of people voted illegally two months ago, and nobody noticed, is preposterous on its face. Election officials, leaders of the president’s own party, and every academic and journalistic investigation confirm this.”
Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan said her office takes allegations of fraud seriously, but the only case she could recall was one person in 2014 who voted in two states.
“The system works pretty well and it will catch people eventually,” she said during an interview Wednesday on MSNBC.
“We hear this during every election,” Reagan said. “Some of them are rumors, some of them may be fact but there aren’t a lot of convictions of voter fraud – and that’s actually a good thing, I like to point to that.”