“We will not be intimidated by unsubstantiated attacks.”
A far-right group given unfettered time to speak during state-run meetings by Republican lawmakers made unfounded claims that certain non-profits violated federal law and engaged in partisan voter outreach efforts.
We the People AZ Alliance, a political action committee funded by far-right figures Patrick Byrne and Mike Lindell, was invited to speak on several occasions at the Arizona Senate Elections Committee, where they spread debunked theories regarding election security.
Big Claims, No Evidence
During a presentation given on Jan. 30, the PAC’s Chair, Shelby Busch, alleged that the Secretary of State’s Office gave certain organizations extensive access to the state’s voter registration system, and that organizations with this special access could register “multiple registrations on the same voter, [registration] changes that are unsolicited by the voter,” and had equal access to voter files as government officials.
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Busch, who is also the 1st Vice-Chair of the Maricopa County Republican Party, listed the following non-profit organizations as being “far-left of center,” and implied that they would register voters to achieve left-leaning political goals.
- The Arizona Center for Disability Law
- Arizona Students’ Association
- Chicanos Por La Causa
- Equality Arizona Foundation
- Mi Familia Vota
- One Arizona
- Phoenix Indian Center
- Rock the Vote
- The Civics Center
All 10 groups are 501c(3) non-profit organizations—which, according to federal law, means that they are “prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.” It is, however, perfectly legal for them to register people to vote.
“Many of them have published things that support certain candidates or certain parties over the other,” Busch told the committee. “I cannot make any assumptions as to their intent, I’m just presenting the facts as I see them.”
Busch did not respond to requests for comment.
Non-Profits Respond to Allegations
Several of the organizations listed responded to Busch’s claims, including Joseph Garcia, vice president of public policy at Chicanos Por La Causa and executive director of Sí Se Vota Chicanos Por La Causa Action Fund.
“Unfounded and false accusations intended to undermine voter confidence and election integrity run counter to this core belief and counter to democracy,” Garcia told The Copper Courier. “We are proud that a record number of Latinos participated in Arizona’s midterm election, and we will continue our nonpartisan efforts to empower our community via the vote.”
One Arizona, a non-profit that has registered more than 600,000 voters since 2018, also took issue with Busch’s characterization.
“One Arizona is proud of the work we have accomplished to date and hope to fulfill our mission to expand voter registration in our state and ensure access to our democracy for all,” a representative said in an emailed statement. “We take our work and mission seriously. We will not be intimidated by unsubstantiated attacks.”
Despite their non-partisan nature, Busch’s claimed repeatedly during her two-hour presentation that the Secretary of State had a flawed program because they did not allow any groups that were what she described as “constitutional-based or right-of-center.”
But what Busch failed to mention was that political parties also participated in the Unique URL program. The Arizona Democratic Party, the Arizona Libertarian Party, and the Republican Party of Arizona all use Unique URLs to register voters.
How the Unique URL Program Works
The tool used by these organizations that received cursory scrutiny from Busch is the Secretary of State’s Online Voter Registration Unique URL Program. Through this program, organizations are given a unique URL by the Secretary of State to register voters electronically.
The program, implemented as a result of the COVID pandemic in 2020, offered new voters an additional layer of security when registering, as it did not require physician papers with their personal information to be created and stored by voter outreach groups.
“The Secretary of State’s Online Voter Registration Unique URL Program was implemented in 2020 due to unprecedented challenges brought by the pandemic, with both Republican and Democratic organizations participating,” The Secretary of State’s Office said in an emailed statement. “The primary aspect of this program is to provide registrants with a unique and trackable URL that directs them to the ServiceArizona.com platform, where eligibility is verified immediately through Motor Vehicle Records.”
While using unique URLs did not give the non-profits using the tool access to change voter files, it did give them access to voter file information that is already publicly available.
A Success for Voter Registration
Organizations like the Arizona Center for Disability Law used the tool in 2020 with a goal of registering 1,000 voters, while Chicanos Por La Causa was able to successfully register thousands of new voters securely, thanks to the Unique URL program.
“[Our organizations] successfully empowered more than 37,000 eligible Latinos to register to vote in the 2022 election,” Garcia said. “There was no connection to any political party, candidate or partisan bent in registration efforts, only an effort to get more Latinos to register to vote and to cast their ballots according to their individual choices and decisions.”
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Other groups, like The Civics Center, seemed undeterred by the unfounded claims made by Busch, and instead looked forward to the future.
“The important thing to remember is that young people in Arizona can register to vote today if they will be 18 by November 2024,” said Laura W. Brill, founder and CEO of The Civics Center. “Everyone who cares about our country and our future should be helping them to do so.”