A bevy of emails obtained by The Federalist reveal how Coconino County officials have been violating the spirit of Arizona law by colluding with a coalition of left-wing nonprofits tasked with influencing election operations in key battleground states ahead of the 2024 election.
Last year, Coconino County — a Democrat stronghold that delivered Joe Biden a margin of 17,646 votes in 2020, greater than the margin of votes by which Biden won the state — became one of several localities to join the U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence. The Honest Elections Project describes the “Alliance” as an $80 million venture launched in 2022 by left-wing nonprofits to “systematically influence every aspect of election administration” and advance Democrat-backed voting policies in local election offices. Several of the organizations participating in the project include the Center for Civic Design, The Elections Group, and the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL), the latter of which interfered in the 2020 election to the benefit of Democrats.
During the 2020 contest, CTCL and the Center for Election Innovation and Research collectively received hundreds of millions of dollars from Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg. These “Zuckbucks” were poured into local election offices in battleground states around the country to change how elections were administered, such as by expanding unsupervised election protocols like mail-in voting and the use of ballot drop boxes. To make matters worse, the grants were heavily skewed towards Democrat-majority counties, essentially making it a massive Democrat get-out-the-vote operation.
With Arizona and 26 other states having passed measures restricting the use of private money in elections in the years since, CTCL and other left-wing nonprofits devised the Alliance as a way to skirt these “Zuckbucks” bans. In a 2023 report, the Honest Elections Project and John Locke Foundation revealed how the Alliance seeks to provide election offices with “scholarships” to cover membership costs, which can then be “converted into ‘credits’ that member offices can use to buy services from CTCL and other Alliance partners.”
Obtained via open records request, the communications reviewed by The Federalist document the process by which Coconino County officials worked behind the scenes to make their county an Alliance member. The extensive coordination between the county and coalition involves regular meetings on election administrative issues and the crafting of election-related materials to distribute to voters ahead of Arizona’s 2024 elections.
Working Behind the Scenes to Skirt State Ban on Private Election Funding
While the U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence wasn’t publicly launched until April 11, 2022, Coconino County’s connections with CTCL — an Alliance participant — date back to the 2020 election cycle. According to the Capital Research Center, Arizona received $5.1 million from CTCL ahead of the November 2020 contest, with more than three-fourths of that money ($3.9 million) going towards four of five counties won by Joe Biden. Coconino County — which Biden won by more than 24 points — received the third largest grant per capita, behind Apache and Navajo Counties.
Coconino’s established connection with CTCL made the Arizona locality a perfect target upon the Alliance’s spring 2022 launch. While Coconino wasn’t a part of the coalition’s 2022 inaugural cohort of participating election offices, county recorder Patty Hansen, a Democrat, sought to gain her jurisdiction access to the Alliance in the weeks following its reveal to the public.
On April 28, 2022, Hansen submitted an application on behalf of Coconino to join the Alliance, which asks applicants to disclose specific information regarding their election administration. The questions included in the application goad local election offices into revealing the size of their elections team, any “improvement” the office would like to make ahead of future elections, and “[h]ow much additional funding would make a meaningful difference” in altering office operations, among other information.
While Hansen received an automated email nearly a month later from CTCL confirming Coconino’s application had been received, Hansen didn’t appear to get a response from CTCL Associate Director Sophie Lehman until Nov. 22, 2022. In her email, Lehman notified Hansen that the Alliance had received Coconino’s application and expressed the coalition’s continued interest in making Coconino an Alliance member. Lehman further informed Hansen that she would receive an Alliance membership agreement after Thanksgiving and that CTCL was “meeting with Alliance partners and our expert legal team to design a membership structure so jurisdictions from across the country can participate in the program.”
“To be clear, this is a pivot from our original vision that would have offered Alliance programming for free,” Lehman wrote.
Honest Elections Project Executive Director Jason Snead previously told The Federalist that CTCL shifted its “original model to a fee-based membership model” as a way of skirting existing “Zuckbucks” bans. “For jurisdictions that are permitted to receive grants, those fees are effectively waived. But jurisdictions that cannot receive private grants can still buy their way in for a relatively small sum, allowing the Alliance to spread its influence even in states where lawmakers have tried to prevent it,” Snead explained.
On Dec. 13, 2022, Lehman informed Hansen that Coconino County had been designated as “a finalist in the inaugural cohort of Centers for Election Excellence” and provided a list of “next steps” for the county to take to become an Alliance member. According to the Alliance membership agreement, counties are given the option of joining the coalition as a basic or premium member, costing $1,600 or $4,800 a year, respectively.
A basic membership grants participating counties access to “a selection of off-the-shelf, publicly-accessible election administration resources, document templates, and training materials,” and “center-specific coaching and consulting from select Alliance partners, in the form of a $800 credit towards the fair market value of Alliance partners’ hourly consulting services,” among other services. Premium members are offered similar services, but are granted $3,040 in credit and “additional multi-center group coaching and consulting sessions hosted by select Alliance partners on an hourly basis.”
Hansen notified Lehman on Jan. 3, 2023, that Coconino County would be subscribing to the Alliance as a basic member and disclosed that she had discussed the legality of the county joining the coalition with “our civil division’s chief deputy county attorney,” who purportedly believed that Coconino joining the Alliance did not “violate any state laws.” Lehman replied two days later congratulating Hansen on Coconino becoming an official member of the Alliance.
Hansen confirmed to The Federalist that Coconino County’s Alliance membership fees were “paid for out of the Recorder’s office [taxpayer-funded] annual budget.”
County Officials Briefed on Left-Wing Partners’ ‘Vision and Goals’
With Coconino County’s 2023 membership secured, the Alliance wasted no time in bringing the Arizona locality into the fold of its operations. On Jan. 4, 2023, Lehman offered Hansen the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion on “election funding” at the Alliance’s “Debrief” event in Chicago the following month. As The Federalist previously reported, “The Debrief” was a three-day “inaugural” event designed “for election officials and election experts to come together to distill key lessons learned from the 2022 election cycle and to plan for the years ahead.”
While Hansen initially expressed interest in participating in the panel, she ultimately backed out of attending the event in person due to her partner’s medical issues. Additional communications indicate Hansen and her “team” attended the event virtually.
But “The Debrief” was just one of many Alliance-sponsored meetings Coconino election officials participated in throughout 2023. Shortly after joining the coalition, Hansen and her team were invited to and took part in a virtual “Centers for Election Excellence kickoff call” on Jan. 25, in which participants would “hear about the Alliance vision and goals,” meet other election offices “who have committed” to the Alliance, and meet the Alliance’s participating organizations.
Hansen and her colleagues were also invited in April 2023 to attend an in-person Alliance “cohort convening” in Las Vegas from May 22-24. Communication records confirm Ray Daw, Coconino County’s Native American elections outreach coordinator, represented the locality’s elections team in Las Vegas. Hansen and at least two colleagues opted to attend the event virtually.
Lehman would continue to email Hansen throughout summer 2023, inviting the Coconino recorder and her team to various meetings hosted by Alliance partners. These events included an Aug. 14 Zoom conference hosted by the Elections Group on “election cybersecurity” and several virtual “monthly cohort call[s]” launched on Aug. 23. Emails also confirm Hansen attended the Alliance’s in-person “cohort convening” in Chicago from Nov. 29-Dec. 1.
Hansen confirmed to The Federalist that her and Daw’s respective travel-related expenses to Alliance events were “paid for out of the Recorder’s office annual [taxpayer-funded] travel budget.”
Coconino County Divulged Election Administration Data to Alliance
While Coconino County officials’ meetings with Alliance partners and fellow members were a major facet of the election office-coalition relationship, the Arizona county’s willful exchange of sensitive information and collusion with the Alliance on election-related matters remains equally concerning.
In addition to its invasive application questions, the Alliance requested Hansen disclose information regarding Coconino County’s election office practices. On March 8, 2023, for example, Lehman emailed Hansen several surveys that, once completed, would provide the Alliance with a “snapshot of [Coconino’s election] office’s current practices around poll workers, and which practices [Hansen is] most interested in improving.” Lehman further noted that the Alliance would like to “conduct an hour-long interview” with Hansen’s office to learn more about Coconino County’s poll worker program.
“The surveys and interviews will help the Alliance as a whole decide which resources to prioritize building and what kind of support to provide,” Lehman claimed. While Lehman noted that the aforementioned survey questions were “optional,” a follow-up email sent to Hansen in April indicated Hansen completed the surveys.
County Recorder Pushed Biden Agenda at Alliance’s Request
The Coconino-Alliance relationship was also very collaborative when it came to pushing leftist causes. On March 9, 2023, Hansen received an automated email from CTCL asking recipients to encourage their congressional representatives to support a provision in President Joe Biden’s 2024 fiscal year budget that included “$5 billion over 10 years for state and local election departments.” In an email sent to a CTCL representative the following day, Hansen expressed her desire to “offer my assistance with contacting my representatives to urge them to support” including the provision in the 2024 budget. In her email, Hansen predicted that her congressman, GOP Rep. Eli Crane, would not support the initiative, noting Crane’s role as a member of the House Freedom Caucus and referring to the Arizona Republican as a so-called “election denier.”
Hansen further noted that she would “be happy” to reach out to several Democrat members of Arizona’s congressional delegation, including Rep. Ruben Gallego and Sen. Mark Kelly, to push the initiative forward. A March 27 email from CTCL’s Sofia Martinez indicates Hansen submitted funding requests to Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, an independent who caucuses with Senate Democrats, and Kelly.
Alliance Partners Helped Design Voter Guide
But Coconino and the Alliance’s collusive efforts didn’t stop there. Roughly a month after the Alliance’s February 2023 “Debrief” event, Hansen emailed Lehman requesting the Center for Civic Design’s (CCD) assistance in creating a new version of Coconino County’s 2024 Voter Guide. Hansen included “a couple of these mailings” her office used leading up to prior elections and noted how the county sends 90-day notice mailings “to all of the registered voters in the county every two years” to verify the accuracy of its voter rolls.
“In 2016 we decided to do a Voter Guide for the upcoming state elections. It’s been very well received by the voters, but I think we can improve it,” Hansen wrote. “Arizona also has a complicated system for our Active (used to be called Permanent) Early Voting list mailing. We’d like to see if [CCD] can help us develop a less legalize mailing to our voters that explains the process.”
Donna Casner, Coconino County’s chief deputy recorder, later sent Hansen templates of the county’s 2022 90-day notice on March 28, 2023, which Hansen then forwarded to Lehman the same day.
Coconino’s collaboration with the Alliance on these new election materials continued into the fall, at which point Lehman connected Hansen with CCD’s Tasmin Swanson. After a series of emails, the two women scheduled a Zoom meeting for Oct. 18, which Hansen indicated would be attended by herself, Casner, and their colleague, Sedona Stone. Less than a week later, Casner emailed Swanson three “variations” of Coconino’s 2022 90-day notice templates “including variable data fields, along with an excerpt from [the office’s] procedures manual that outlines the mandatory requirements for the notice.”
Collaboration between Coconino County election officials and CCD continued into November, at which point CCD’s Randy Hadzor was brought into the mix to assist the Arizona locality on redesigning its 90-day notice. In her Nov. 2 email providing Hansen and Casner with CCD’s proposal for the redesign, Swanson noted that the project would likely use up the remaining credit Coconino County received upon subscribing to the Alliance. A Dec. 8 email from Hadzor to Casner indicated the new redesign was “coming along nicely,” with Hadzor expressing hope that he would “be able to send over some preliminary concepts for your review soon.”
The Road Ahead
The Alliance’s efforts to influence and acquire information about local election operations is hardly exclusive to Coconino County. Localities in battleground states throughout the country, such as Georgia’s DeKalb County, for example, have become targets of the Alliance’s scheme to replicate CTCL’s 2020 election shenanigans. Rather than allow states and localities to manage their elections, as the Constitution prescribes, leftist groups such as those comprising the Alliance are intent on dipping their hands into the electoral process to steer elections in Democrats’ favor.
While speaking with The Federalist, Republican National Committee spokesman Gates McGavick referred to the Alliance as a “trojan horse for far-left dark money to influence elections,” and called on Coconino County to be transparent about its active relationship with the coalition.
“Arizona has a ban on third-party ‘Zuckbucks’ to prevent groups just like the [Alliance] from unduly influencing local election administration,” McGavick said. “Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and Coconino County should answer for its collaboration with [the Alliance].”
Communication records show that the Alliance has since offered Coconino County the opportunity to remain an Alliance member throughout 2024.
Hansen confirmed to The Federalist that she is “planning on renewing [her] office’s membership in the Alliance for 2024” and that the funds used to pay for the membership fee “will come out of the Recorder’s office annual [taxpayer-funded] budget.”
This article has been updated since publication to include comments from Coconino County Recorder Patty Hansen.