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

PHOENIX — A top leader of the national conservative group Turning Point Action, which amplified false claims of election fraud by former President Donald Trump and others, resigned Thursday after being accused of forging voter signatures on official documents so he can run for re-election in 2017. the Arizona House.

State Rep. Austin Smith (R) — who was senior director of Turning Point Action, the campaign arm of Charlie Kirk’s Turning Point USA — was accused by a Democratic activist of submitting petition sheets. with rows of voters’ names, addresses and signatures that “bear a striking resemblance” to Smith’s handwriting, according to a complaint. Smith “personally circulated several petition sheets bearing what appear to be false voter signatures,” the complaint states.

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 spokesperson for the state attorney’s office, which leads a team focused on allegations of voter and voter fraud after widespread allegations following the 2020 election, declined to comment. Both state offices are overseen by Democrats.

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

Smith did not respond to a request for comment.

In a statement, the first-term lawmaker said the allegations against him were “stupid” and part of a “coordinated attack” by Democrats and “those who are unhappy with my policies.”

Smith is aligned with some of the most conservative members of the Arizona House — sometimes called the “Freedom Caucus” of the broader Republican caucus — and he has previously ridiculed the signature verification work done by local election officials as “joke”.

During his tenure at Turning Point Action, Smith worked to support the candidacies of conservatives who spread misinformation about the election. At a rally in Washington on January 5, 2021, Smith tweeted a photo of himself addressing “thousands of patriots.” In the since-deleted tweet, he urged his followers to “not get comfortable” and “fight like hell.” The next day, as Congress met to certify the results of the 2020 election, the U.S. Capitol was attacked.

Smith said the prospect of costly and public fallout from the allegations influenced his decision to drop out of the race.

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

The complaint alleged that Smith submitted several pages containing dozens of fake signatures that he claimed to have collected, and that they contained images of two of those pages.

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

Maricopa County Supervisor Clint Hickman (R), who lives in Smith’s district west of Phoenix, called Smith a hypocrite. Hickman rejected Trump’s attempts to speak to him in the weeks following the then-president’s narrow defeat in the 2020 election. Hickman was the subject of death threats, threats against his family and protests at his home. On Thursday, he called on Smith to resign from office.

“This is a man who lied to the residents of Legislative District 29 and the entire state about our election operations for at least three years,” Hickman said in a statement. “And now he’s accused of lying about the signatures he personally collected so he could run for office again.” An investigation will reveal the truth.

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