Turning Point Action official resigns after accusation of election-related fraud

PHOENIX – A top leader of the national conservative group Turning Point Action, which has promoted false claims of election fraud by the former president Donald Trump Others resigned Thursday after being accused of forging voter signatures on official paperwork so he could run for re-election to the Arizona House of Representatives.

State Rep. Austin Smith (right) — who was a senior director at Turning Point Action, the campaign arm of Charlie Kirk’s Turning Point USA — has been accused by a Democratic activist of filing petition papers With rows of voters’ names, addresses and signatures Which “bears a striking resemblance” to Smith’s handwriting, according to the complaint. Smith “personally distributed multiple petition papers bearing what appeared to be forged signatures of voters,” the complaint said.

The complaint was sent to the Arizona Secretary of State, who forwarded it To the Arizona Attorney General for review. State election officials do not evaluate the veracity of allegations against candidates. A spokesman for the state Attorney General’s Office, which runs a team focused on voter and election fraud allegations after widespread allegations in the wake of the 2020 election, declined to comment. Democrats oversee both state offices.

Smith submitted his resignation to Turning Point Action on Thursday, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about it publicly. Smith also publicly ended his re-election campaign.

Smith did not respond to a request for comment.

The first-term lawmaker said in a statement that the accusations against him are “ridiculous” and part of a “coordinated attack” by Democrats and “those who are dissatisfied with my policies.”

Smith is aligned with some of the more conservative members of the Arizona House of Representatives — sometimes referred to as the “Freedom Caucus” of the larger Republican caucus — and has previously derided signature verification work by local election officials as a “joke.”

During his time with Turning Point Action, Smith worked to support the candidacies of conservatives who spread false information about the election. At a rally in Washington on January 5, 2021, Smith tweeted a photo of himself speaking to “thousands of patriots.” In that since-deleted tweet, he urged his followers to “don’t rest” and “fight like hell.” The next day, as Congress was meeting to certify the results of the 2020 election, the US Capitol was attacked.

Smith said the potential for costly and public fallout from the allegations shaped his decision to withdraw from the race.

“The recommendation I received the most was to quit and live to fight another day,” Smith said. a permit It was posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. “I may be confident of victory, but all it takes is a judge to believe anyone, and all is lost. … To be better protected in the future, when I run again for something, I will rely exclusively on the online signature system, and cancel the petitions.” Paperwork from my campaign then no one can make up any stories.

The complaint alleged that Smith submitted multiple pages containing dozens of forged signatures that he claimed to have collected, and contained photographs of two of those pages.

Smith’s withdrawal sparked immediate backlash from members of his party, some of whom faced death threats and harassment for supporting the will of voters — and Republican losses — during the 2020 and 2022 elections.

Maricopa County Supervisor Clint Hickman (right), who lives in Smith’s district west of Phoenix, called Smith a hypocrite. Hickman rebuffed Trump’s attempts to talk to him in the weeks after the then-president narrowly lost the 2020 election. He has faced death threatsThreats against his family and protests at his home. On Thursday, he called on Smith to resign from his position.

“This man lied to the people of the 29th Legislative District and the entire state about our election processes for at least three years,” Hickman said in a statement. “And now he is accused of lying about the signatures he personally collected to get on the ballot again. The investigation will reveal the truth.”

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