BREAKING: A Woman From Arizona Has Admitted To A Vote-Rigging Plot, Election Fraud, And Involvement In An Electoral Ballot Conspiracy

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In an arrangement with state prosecutors, an Arizona woman accused of unlawfully collecting early ballots in the 2020 primary election pleaded guilty Thursday, dismissing the more severe forgery and conspiracy counts and limiting the possibility of a significant prison term.

Guillermina Fuentes, 66, could face probation for running a sophisticated operation that used her status as a well-known Democrat operative in the border city of San Luis to persuade voters to let her gather and, in some cases, fill out their ballots, according to Arizona attorney general’s office investigators.

Prosecutors dropped three felony allegations charging that Fuentes improperly filled out one voter’s ballot and faked signatures on some of the four votes she illegally returned for persons who were not family members, indicating that they were unable to establish the most serious accusations.

Republicans who have rallied around the likelihood of massive voter fraud in the 2020 election, in which former President Donald Trump is expected to lose, have pointed to the allegations against Fuentes as part of a larger trend in crucial states. There’s little evidence, however, that her unlawful ballot gathering extended beyond the small-town politics in which Fuentes was involved.

In December 2020, Fuentes and a second lady were charged with one count of vote misuse, often known as “ballot harvesting,” which was made illegal by a 2016 state statute. Last October, Fuentes was charged with conspiracy, forgery, and an extra count of ballot misuse. During a change of plea hearing in Yuma County, Arizona, on Thursday, Fuentes spoke nothing, just nodding yes to the judge’s questioning when he asked whether she had read and understood the plea bargain.

Fuentes, a former mayor of San Luis who now serves on the board of the Gadsden Elementary School District in San Luis, may face a term of up to two years in jail if a court finds aggravating circumstances.

For her admitting to illegally collecting and returning four voted votes, the plea deal leaves the sentencing up to a judge, who might sentence her to probation, home detention, and a large fine. The date for sentencing has been scheduled for June 30. She will lose her ability to vote and will be forced to resign from her elected position. In an email sent Thursday, attorney Anne Chapman said she had no comment on the accusations against her client.

She, on the other hand, attacked Arizona’s ballot collecting legislation, claiming that it obstructs minority voters who have traditionally relied on others to assist their vote. “This prosecution demonstrates that the statute is a part of continuing antidemocratic statewide and national voter suppression attempts,” she added.

Fewer than a dozen ballots might be tied to Fuentes, according to attorney general’s office investigative data acquired by The Associated Press through a public records request, which isn’t enough to make a difference in any but the tightest municipal elections.

The data were released after a 15-month wait by the office of Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican seeking his party’s Senate nominee. It is the attorney general’s first prosecution under the 2016 “ballot harvesting” statute, which was affirmed by the United States Supreme Court last year.

According to investigators, Fuentes appears to have utilized her position as an influential person in the mainly Mexican American neighborhood to get voters to return to the polls by giving her or others their ballots. According to the reports, Fuentes and her co-defendant were seen with multiple mail-in envelopes outside a cultural facility in San Luis on the day of the 2020 primary election. Inside, the ballots were taken and placed in a ballot box.

A write-in candidate who contacted the Yuma County sheriff filmed her. According to accounts, the video showed her marking at least one ballot, but that accusation was dismissed along with the others. That day, an inquiry was initiated, and roughly 50 votes were examined for fingerprints, but the results were inconclusive.

Within days, the attorney general’s office took up the probe, with detectives working with sheriff’s officers to question voters, Fuentes, and others. Despite the fact that Fuentes was only charged with the conduct seen on videotape and involving a small number of votes, investigators suspect the operation went far further.

According to one investigation by the Attorney General’s Office, there was some evidence that Fuentes aggressively canvassed San Luis communities and collected votes, in some cases paid for them. Before Arizona enacted the 2016 legislation, collecting votes in this manner was a standard get-out-the-vote strategy utilized by both political parties. It has never been legal to pay for ballots. There’s no evidence she or anybody else in Yuma County collected votes in the general election, but attorney general’s office detectives are still on the ground.

Last month, search warrants were served to a charity in San Luis, according to the Arizona Republic. The order sought the mobile phone of a San Luis councilwoman who may have been involved in unlawful vote gathering, according to the group’s executive director, who is also the chair of the Yuma County board of supervisors.

The Yuma primary election lawsuit was again a spotlight at a legislative hearing Tuesday as election conspiracy theories spoke. Yuma Republican Rep. Tim Dunn stated, “It’s all about corruption in San Luis and rigging a city council election.” “This has been going on for decades in south county, that you can’t have free and fair elections.” And it’s making its way across the country.”

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