Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting

part i — sovereign citizens

‘Sovereign citizen’ filings flood Pima County, parallel national resurgence of controversial movement

Adherents of the sovereign citizen ideology have garnered a reputation for conflict with government officials and members of the public—conflicts that, in some cases, have turned violent. More commonly, they engage in so-called paper terrorism tactics, threatening and harassing people by inundating them with lawsuits and liens.



This project, In the Sheriff We Trust, was produced by the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism, in collaboration with the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting. The Howard Center is based at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and is an initiative of the Scripps Howard Fund in honor of the late news industry executive and pioneer Roy W. Howard.


Suspending students for absences, tardies compounds learning loss

Suspending students for missing class, whether it’s because they showed up late, cut midday or were absent from school entirely, is a controversial tactic. At least 17 states forbid schools from suspending students for attendance problems at some level—if kids aren’t in class, they aren’t learning. Yet the practice is pervasive in Arizona, a first-of-its-kind AZCIR/Hechinger analysis has found, with students missing tens of thousands of additional school days as a result.

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The Uncounted

an azcir series about ‘constitutional sheriffs’

Arizona ‘ground zero’ for extremist, anti-government sheriff movement

More than half of Arizona’s county sheriffs are at least partially aligned with a growing movement of so-called “constitutional sheriffs,” with an ideology that threatens to radicalize law enforcement by indoctrinating them with false legal theories about a sheriff’s authority over state and federal government, and a duty to nullify laws they interpret as unconstitutional. A shift toward amplifying misinformation about widespread voter fraud has experts sounding the alarm.


Pandemic accelerated Arizona’s years-long decline in childhood vaccination rates

The impact of missed preventative medical care during the pandemic is beginning to emerge in the form of drastic declines in childhood vaccination rates among Arizona youth, now at lower levels than at any point in the past decade. The plummeting rates follow a years-long decline in immunizations among Arizona students overall—one that has put residents of all ages at heightened risk of infection from largely preventable communicable diseases.



State, county policies impact rejected ballot rates in November election

Election officials didn’t count 27,327 ballots cast by Arizona voters in the November election, rejecting more than twice the 10,457 votes that flipped the state for President-elect Joe Biden in what was the closest raw vote margin of any state in the nation. The uncounted votes, which are legally rejected by officials for reasons such…


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