Arizona Woman Jailed For Collecting Early Voting Ballots In 2020

On Oct. 13, Yuma County Superior Court Judge Roger Nelson sentenced Guillermina Fuentes to 30 days in jail and two years probation for illegally collecting four early voting ballots for the 2020 presidential primary race.

Fuentes, 66, is from the small border city of San Luis, where she is a school board member and former mayor. Along with a fellow San Luis woman, Fuentes collected four early ballots from people she knew in the community and delivered them to the ballot box, despite a new law prohibiting such conduct.

Judge Nelson denied Fuentes’ request to forgo jail time, explaining that he felt the sentence was necessary because Fuentes refused to recognize the criminality of her conduct.

″’The defendant acknowledged responsibility for carrying ballots for someone else; however, she stated, ’I’m not a criminal,’” Nelson said. “Well, you are a criminal.”

“You committed a criminal offense,” he continued. “I don’t think you recognize that as a criminal offense. That’s the problem that I have.”

Fuentes’ offense is known as “ballot harvesting,” and Arizona lawmakers outlawed it in 2016. Citizens can only possess the mail ballots of family members, housemates, and caregivers.

“Ballot harvesting” bills are becoming popular in states across the nation to ensure election integrity.​​

Fuentes’ case is the first time someone has been prosecuted under the “ballot harvesting” law in Arizona.

Judge Nelson was not persuaded by the character witnesses brought into court by Fuentes’ attorney during the trial. While the witnesses touted her leadership in the San Luis community, the judge said that her position of power made the crime even worse.

“Many of the things that were put forward as mitigating factors, I think they’re also aggravating factors,” he explained. “You have been a leader in the San Luis community for a long time.”

“People look up to you, people respect you, and they look to what you do,” he added.

Nelson said that Fuentes’ offense was even worse because she was well aware of the “ballot harvesting” law and illegally submitted the ballots anyway.

“It’s been an issue for a long time, or at least it’s been alleged that it’s an issue, that people vote for others, take their ballots,” Nelson stated. “Everybody that’s involved in politics in this area knew that a new law was passed. You certainly knew it, that that law was new, even went up to the Supreme Court.”

As a result of the conviction, Fuentes will be removed from the school board and will not be able to run for office again unless the felony is reduced to a misdemeanor.