A state grand jury has indicted a 46-year-old felon for illegally voting while in jail. Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced that Manuel Aguirre of Sahuarita was indicted on one count of false registration and one count of illegal voting, both felonies. He voted during the 2020 election from the Pima County Jail.

Aguirre falsely stated on his voter registration form that he had no felonies or that his rights had been restored. He has five felony convictions, including vehicular theft, criminal trespassing and weapons misconduct.

The attorney general’s office has prosecuted other felons for voting this past year. Kenneth Russell Nelson, who was convicted of murdering his wife, was indicted in September. A Scottsdale woman was prosecuted for voting her dead mother’s ballot in the 2020 election. The attorney general’s office started an election integrity unit in 2019 which handles those crimes.

Due to reports of ballot fraud in Pima County, former President Donald Trump has called to decertify the results there or hold a new election. Arizona Rep. Mark Finchem (R-Oro Valley), who is running for Arizona Secretary of State, echoed Trump’s claims, saying there are “34,000 or 35,000 fictitious voters” in Pima County.

A study from a few years ago published in The American Academy of Political and Social Science found that seven out of 10 felons register as Democrats. Of three felons caught voting in Pima County this past year, two were Democrats, the other was a Republican.

Discovering felons who have illegally voted is difficult, so very few are ever caught. In 2008, Minnesota Majority performed an analysis of a close U.S. Senate race in the state, where Democrat Al Franken beat Republican Norm Coleman by 312 votes. The organization found 1,099 votes by felons, and 90 percent of them had voted for Franken. However, only 177 were ever prosecuted, due to the high standard of proving the felon “knowingly” voted unlawfully. So not only did the government not discover the voting fraud, an outside organization did, but most of them were not prosecuted.

About 5.17 million people nationwide are prohibited from voting due to a felony conviction. Democrats are pushing to restore voting rights to felons. A Pew Research poll found that 70 percent of Americans favor allowing people convicted of a felony to vote after serving their sentences. Florida passed a law in 2018 allowing felons to regain their voting rights after serving their prison terms. Democrats are excited because Florida is a swing state. But because they are required to pay all fines and fees first, activists are raising money from wealthy donors to assist them. The Florida Rights Restoration Committee has raised over $27,000,000 and paid off fines and fees for over 40,000 people, much of which has come from billionaire Michael Bloomberg.

In another swing state, Virginia Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe started using his executive power to restore voting rights. So far he’s returned voting rights to over 200,000 felons.

Vermont, the District of Columbia and Maine go even further and give imprisoned felons the right to vote. However, a 2019 Quinnipiac poll found that 65 percent of registered voters “strongly disapprove” of giving felons the right to vote while in prison.

The argument against restoring voting rights to felons — especially felons still incarcerated — goes back to the U.S. Constitution. Section 2 of the 14th Amendment, which made it illegal for states to pass laws abridging the “privileges or immunities of the citizens of the United States,” makes an exception for “participation in rebellion, or other crime.”

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Rachel Alexander is a reporter at The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Rachel on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Prison Inmates” by Bart Everson. CC BY 2.0.