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AZ Rep. Austin Smith accused of forging nomination signatures in lawsuit

Austin Smith
Austin Smith speaks with media outside the Arizona State Capitol on Jan. 9, 2023.

A complaint filed in Maricopa County Superior Court on Monday accuses Rep. Austin Smith (R-Wittman) of forging signatures he needed to gather to qualify for the ballot and run for reelection. 

The complaint alleges that nine pages of signatures Smith gathered appear to be written by the same person and look like Smith’s own handwriting. And two people whose names and addresses are listed on Smith’s nominating papers signed documents declaring that they never signed his petitions. 

“On information and belief, additional voters whose signatures appear on the sheets never signed the petition,” the filing states.

According to state law, candidates found guilty of petition forgery are no longer eligible to seek election, or run for any public office for no less than five years.

“Voters in the West Valley and across the state deserve to be represented by a legislator who will uphold the rule of law,” James Ashurst, a Goodyear resident who’s the plaintiff in the suit challenging Smith’s signatures, said in a statement. “It’s deeply concerning that Smith has so little respect for Arizona voters. This is a betrayal of his constituents and all Arizonans and I hope Smith will be held accountable.”

Smith needed 527 signatures to qualify for the primary ballot in Legislative District 29 and collected 826. However, if Smith is found guilty of petition forgery, the complaint argues that under state law, all his petitions — not just those he personally collected – should be disqualified. 

Smith could not be reached for comment.

In addition to serving in the Legislature, Smith works as senior director of Turning Point Action, the advocacy wing of Turning Point USA –  a national organization focused on engaging conservative young Americans.

Smith represents a deeply conservative district where only one other Republican and two Democrats have qualified for the primary ballot. There are two House seats per district, so if Smith is disqualified, Republican leaders would have to field a write-in candidate to avoid losing a seat in the chamber to Democrats.

LD29 GOP Chair Linda Migliore said Republicans in the district don’t believe Smith will be removed from the ballot.

“I’ve known Austin for several years. He’s honest, he’s hardworking, he’s very trustworthy. I would not want anybody else other than him and Steve Montenegro representing me in the House and I am positive that he would not forge his signature,” Migliore said.

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Camryn Sanchez is a field correspondent at KJZZ covering everything to do with state politics.