PHOENIX (AP) — A Phoenix judge on Friday sentenced a Scottsdale woman who now lives in California to two years of felony probation, fines and community service for voting her late mother’s ballot in the general election of 2020.
But the judge rejected a prosecutor’s request to serve at least 30 days in jail because she lied to investigators and demanded they hold accountable those who commit election fraud.
The case against Tracey Kay McKee, 64, is one of the few voter fraud cases in Arizona’s 2020 election that led to charges, despite widespread belief among many supporters of former President Donald Trump that there was widespread voter fraud that led to his downfall in Arizona and other battleground states.
McKee sobbed as he apologized to Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Margaret LaBianca before the judge handed down her sentence, saying she was mourning the loss of her mother and had no intention of influence the outcome of the elections.
“Your Honor, I would like to apologize,” McKee told LaBianca. “I don’t want to find an excuse for my behavior. What I did was wrong and I am ready to accept the consequences handed down by the court.
McKee and her mother, Mary Arendt, were registered Republicans, although she was not asked if she voted for Trump. Arendt died on October 5, 2020, two days before the first ballots were sent to voters.
Assistant Attorney General Todd Lawson released a tape of McKee being interviewed by an investigator from his office where she said there had been rampant voter fraud and denied signing and returning her mother’s ballot.
“The only way to prevent voter fraud is to physically enter and punch a ballot,” McKee told the pollster. “I mean, voter fraud is going to be prevalent as long as there’s mail-in voting, that’s for sure. I mean, there’s no way to ensure a fair election.
“And I don’t believe it was a fair election,” she continued. “I believe there was a lot of electoral fraud.”
Tom Henze, McKee’s attorney, pointed to dozens of voter fraud cases prosecuted in Arizona over the past decade, many for similar violations of voting on someone else’s ballot, and said no one had been imprisoned in these cases. He said agreeing with Lawson that McKee should serve 30 days in jail would raise constitutional issues of fairness.
“Simply put, over a long period of time, in large cases, 67 cases, no one in this state for similar cases, in similar context…no one has been jailed,” Henze said. “The court did not impose a prison sentence at all.”
But Lawson said the prison sentence was significant because the type of case has changed. While in years past most cases involved people voting in two states because they lived or owned property in both states, in the 2020 election people bought into Trump’s claims about the widespread electoral fraud.
“What we hear is that voter fraud exists,” Lawson told the judge. “And basically what we’re seeing here is someone saying, ‘Well, I’m going to commit voter fraud because this is a big deal and I’m just going to slip under the radar. And I’m going to do it because everyone else is doing it and I can get away with it.
“I don’t subscribe to it at all,” he said. “And I think the attitude you hear in the interview is the attitude that differentiates this case from other cases.”
LaBianca said while she agreed with Lawson, ordering a jail sentence would give McKee what she told the investigator what she wanted: to prosecute people who committed voter fraud.
“And if there was evidence that this crime was on the rise and that further deterrence might be needed, the court could order a prison sentence,” LaBianca said. “But the record here does not show that this crime is on the rise.
“And as heinous as it may be for someone like the defendant to attack the legitimacy of our free elections without any evidence except your own fraud, such statements are not illegal as far as I know. “, continued the judge.
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