Arizona GOP Offers $100,000 for Primary Election Bounty Hunters

Some Arizona Republicans, once fixated on auditing the 2020 election, are now offering bounties for proof of "vote buying" in the August 2 primary.
Some Arizona Republicans, once fixated on auditing the 2020 election, are now offering bounties for proof of "vote buying" in the August 2 primary. Elias Weiss
After failing to ban vote-by-mail in court, Arizona Republicans are offering two $50,000 rewards for evidence of "vote-buying" in the August 2 primary.

In its latest offensive against no-excuse mail-in voting, a staple of Arizona elections for the past three decades, AZGOP is looking to cast doubt on upcoming election results.

"There is historical precedent of vote-buying fraud which ultimately led to secret ballot laws,” the state GOP wrote in a July 20 press release announcing the reward money. “Unfortunately, the movement towards mass mail-in voting completely undoes secret ballot reform. Mail-in ballots are not secret — once a person has a ballot in their home, they can easily show it to anyone, including bad actors.”

The party is offering the rewards to the first two people who can provide evidence that results in an arrest and conviction for vote-buying — but not without caveats. Its bounty offer comes with 10 terms, including the need for formal charges to be filed by the end of the year and proof of a conviction by the end of 2023.

"Election integrity is of paramount importance," according to the press release.

The bounty offer does not provide examples of what it called “historical precedent of vote-buying fraud” or details about the “movement towards mass mail-in voting." It cites only a documentary from conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza titled “2000 Mules,” a reference to someone who collects multiple ballots for simultaneous submission.

Republican critics claim that the practice, derisively referred to as “ballot harvesting,” enables collectors to persuade or even pay voters to select a particular candidate before taking the ballot. The Arizona legislature banned the practice in 2016.

In the film, which was released earlier this year, D’Souza uses cell-phone metadata to argue that more than 2,000 Democratic operatives nonetheless carried out the process illegally in Arizona and four other swing states. Fact-checkers have criticized his methodology as far too imprecise to support his conclusions.

Arizona Democrats blasted the bounty as another GOP effort "that jeopardizes our democracy."

“It is absolutely despicable, though not at all surprising, that under the leadership of Kelli Ward the AZ GOP is trying to enlist ‘bounty hunters’ to drum up more lies and conspiracy theories about the security of our election,” said Morgan Dick, communications director of the Arizona Democratic Party. “This is a desperate attempt to disenfranchise voters, not to mention it is a reckless and dangerous path that jeopardizes our democracy — and the Republicans know exactly what they are doing.”

Dick added that the award could lead people to unfairly target election workers.

“The 2022 elections both next week in August and again in November will be safe, secure, and accurate thanks to the hard work of dedicated elections officials across Arizona,” she said. “Their public service should be commended, not disparaged."

The bounty offer follows a failed attempt by the state GOP and Ward, its chairwoman, to overturn or suspend vote-by-mail before the primary. In June, a Mohave County Superior Court ruled against their lawsuit challenging the practice, affirming that Arizona's constitution authorizes the state legislature to pass laws permitting no-excuse mail-in ballots and that existing regulations preserve secrecy.

Although Arizona has allowed all registered voters to mail absentee ballots since 1992, the remote option has landed in the party’s crosshairs amid heightened concerns about voter fraud after former President Donald Trump’s 2020 defeat.

Ward, who has been disseminating election fraud conspiracies since the 2020 election, has come under scrutiny for text messages sent to the White House ahead of the U.S. Capitol riots on January 6. Earlier this year, Ward unveiled a line of "America First" election-fraud-themed non-fungible tokens.

The state GOP did not respond to a request for comment by the Phoenix New Times.
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