The Ballot Boogeymen

The Ballot Boogeymen

By The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX

In August 2020, Guillermina Fuentes was trying to get out the vote in her small Arizona community. Outside a polling place, she handed a few absentee ballots to another volunteer to drop off. A conservative activist secretly filmed her and reported her to local authorities. In the eyes of the law, she’d just committed a felony. 

Dropping off someone else’s mail-in ballot, known as ballot collecting, became a crime in Arizona in 2016, and Fuentes would become the first person prosecuted for it. Reveal reporter Ese Olumhense travels to San Luis to report on Fuentes’ case and finds she has gone from being a well-known local politician in her community to the face of right-wing campaigns against voter fraud. 

Fuentes’ arrest and prosecution show the beginnings of an alarming trend shaping the future of how elections are surveilled and policed. Olumhense and Reveal’s Melissa Lewis built a database to track all election-crimes-related bills introduced in the country since the 2020 election. They found a national push to punish what is considered in many states to be typical voting practices. Fueled in part by politicians who falsely claim voter fraud stole the 2020 election from Donald Trump, bills are being introduced that create new election crime investigation agencies, establish criminal penalties for election offenses or empower law enforcement officials to investigate such crimes. 

While there was no proof of anything resembling widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election, there is one way in which elections are rigged: gerrymandering. Mother Jones senior reporter Ari Berman delves into how Republicans redrew voting maps in Wisconsin, helping them cement control of the state Legislature. Republicans’ strong hold on power has allowed them to keep in place deeply unpopular laws like an abortion ban that dates back to 1849. But this isn’t about just state politics: It’s also about the next election for president in 2024. 

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