Arizona Woman Pleads Guilty to Illegal Ballot Collection

An Arizona woman pleaded guilty last week in state court to charges that she illegally collected early voting ballots for the 2020 primary election. Guillermina Fuentes, 66, entered the plea as part of an agreement with prosecutors that allowed her to avoid more serious charges of forgery and conspiracy and the potential for a long prison sentence.

Fuentes is a former mayor of San Luis, Arizona, and is an elected member of the board of the Gadsden Elementary School District in the city.

Investigators working for the Arizona attorney general said Fuentes was involved in a sophisticated scheme that used her status as a locally powerful Democrat operative to persuade voters to let her gather and even sometimes fill out their ballots.

Prosecutors agreed to drop three felony charges against Fuentes that involved allegations she filled out ballots for others and forged signatures on ballots illegally returned on behalf of non-relatives.

Fuentes and one co-defendant were indicted in December 2020 for one count of ballot abuse, a practice made illegal by a 2016 state statute. Additional charges of forgery and conspiracy were added to the case last year.

She could receive up to to two years in prison as a result of the plea, but could also receive probation, home confinement, a fine, or some combination of those punishments. A sentencing hearing on the guilty plea has been scheduled for June 30. Fuentes has agreed to give up her voting rights and the school board position she currently holds.

Attorney Anne Chapman represents Fuentes and said last week that the recently passed ballot collection law unfairly discriminates against minority voters. She claimed that minority voters are somehow more reliant on other people to help them vote. Chapman said the law is part of a larger national effort toward “antidemocratic, statewide, and national voter suppression.”

Investigators found that Fuentes used her position as a politically powerful local figure in her heavily Mexican American community to convince people to turn their ballots over to her to be returned to election officials.

Fuentes was captured on video taken by a political candidate allegedly marking at least one ballot she had harvested and returned to a polling location. A subsequent investigation eventually led to the charges brought against Fuentes.

One investigator’s report indicated that Fuentes conducted widespread canvassing operations and even paid for ballots in some cases.