Under Mark Brnovich, a Republican who left office in January, a 10,000-hour review did not see the light of day. His Democratic successor, Kris Mayes, released investigators’ findings.
Mark Brnovich, a Republican who served as Arizona’s attorney general until January, buried the findings of a 10,000-hour review by his office that found no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election, newly released documents reveal.
The documents were released on Wednesday by Mr. Brnovich’s successor, Kris Mayes, a Democrat who took office last month as the top law enforcement official in the battleground state, which remains at the forefront of the election denial movement.
The sweeping review was completed last year after politicians and other conspiracy theorists aligned with former President Donald J. Trump inundated Mr. Brnovich’s office with election falsehoods. They claimed baselessly that large numbers of people had voted twice; that ballots had been sent to dead people; and that ballots with traces of bamboo had been flown in from Korea and filled out in advance for Joseph R. Biden Jr., who won Arizona by a little over 10,000 votes.
But investigators discredited these claims, according to a report on their findings that was withheld by Mr. Brnovich.
“These allegations were not supported by any factual evidence when researched by our office,” Reginald Grigsby, chief special agent in the office’s special investigation’s section, wrote in a summary of the findings on Sept. 19 of last year.
The summary was part of documents and internal communications that were made public on Wednesday by Ms. Mayes, who narrowly won an open-seat race in November to become attorney general.
“The results of this exhaustive and extensive investigation show what we have suspected for over two years — the 2020 election in Arizona was conducted fairly and accurately by elections officials,” Ms. Mayes said in a statement. “The 10,000-plus hours spent diligently investigating every conspiracy theory under the sun distracted this office from its core mission of protecting the people of Arizona from real crime and fraud.”
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Efforts to reach Mr. Brnovich, who ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate last year, were not immediately successful.
His former chief of staff, Joseph Kanefield, who was also Mr. Brnovich’s chief deputy, did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday.
In the eight-page summary of investigators’ findings, Mr. Grigsby wrote that the attorney general’s office had interviewed and tried to collect evidence from Cyber Ninjas, a Florida firm that conducted a heavily criticized review of the 2020 election results in Arizona’s most populous county, Maricopa, at the direction of the Republican-controlled State Senate.
Investigators also made several attempts to gather information from True the Vote, a nonprofit group founded by Catherine Engelbrecht, a prominent election denier, the summary stated.
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“In each instance and in each matter, the aforementioned parties did not provide any evidence to support their allegations,” Mr. Grigsby wrote. “The information that was provided was speculative in many instances and when investigated by our agents and support staff, was found to be inaccurate.”
When investigators tried to speak to Wendy Rogers, an election-denying Republican state lawmaker, they said in the summary that she refused to cooperate and told them she was waiting to see the “perp walk” of those who had committed election fraud.
Ms. Rogers, who was censured by the State Senate in March 2022 after giving a speech at a white nationalist gathering, declined to comment on Thursday.
In a series of emails exchanged by Mr. Brnovich’s staff members last April, Mr. Grigsby appeared to object several times to the language in a letter drafted on behalf of Mr. Brnovich that explained investigators’ findings. Its intended recipient was Karen Fann, a Republican who was the State Senate’s president and was a catalyst for the Cyber Ninjas review in Arizona.
One of the statements that Mr. Grigsby highlighted as problematic centered on election integrity in Maricopa County.
“Our overall assessment is that the current election system in Maricopa County involving the verification and handling of early ballots is broke,” Mr. Brnovich’s draft letter stated.
But Mr. Grigsby appeared to reach an opposite interpretation, writing that investigators had concluded that the county followed its procedures for verifying signatures on early ballots.
“We did not uncover any criminality or fraud having been committed in this area during the 2020 general election,” a suggested edit was written beneath the proposed language.
Ms. Fann did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.
In his role in Arizona, Mr. Brnovich was something of an enigma. He defended the state’s vote count after the 2020 presidential election, drawing the ire of Mr. Trump. The former president sharply criticized Mr. Brnovich in June and endorsed his Republican opponent, Blake Masters, who won the Senate primary but lost in the general election.
But Mr. Brnovich has also suggested that the 2020 election revealed “serious vulnerabilities” in the electoral system and said cryptically on the former Trump aide Stephen K. Bannon’s podcast last spring, “I think we all know what happened in 2020.”
In January, as one of Ms. Mayes’s first acts in office, she redirected an election integrity unit that Mr. Brnovich had created, focusing its work instead on addressing voter suppression.
The unit’s former leader, Jennifer Wright, meanwhile, joined a legal effort to invalidate Ms. Mayes’s narrow victory in November.
Ms. Mayes has said that she did not share the priorities of Mr. Brnovich, whom she previously described as being preoccupied with voter fraud despite isolated cases. The office has five pending voter fraud investigations.