Tuesday, a federal judge told armed members of a group watching ballot drop boxes in Arizona to stay at least 250 feet away from the locations. This came after voters said that people wearing masks and carrying guns were scaring them away.
U.S. District Court Judge Michael Liburdi said that members of Clean Elections USA, its leader, and anyone who works with them couldn’t film or follow anyone within 75 feet of a ballot drop box or the entrance to a building with one. They also can’t talk to or yell at people inside that area unless they are first asked to.
The League of Women Voters of Arizona asked for a temporary restraining order after Clean Elections USA told people to watch 24-hour ballot boxes in Maricopa County, which has the most people in Arizona.
On Monday, the second group of defendants in rural Yavapai County, who were associated with the far-right anti-government group Oath Keepers, known as the Lions of Liberty and the Yavapai County Preparedness team, were removed from the case after they pledged to cease their operations. These defendants were dismissed from the case.
“Today’s US District Court decision is a victory for the voters of Arizona who have the right to cast their ballots free from intimidation, threats, or coercion.” Pinny Sheoran, president of @lwvaz
Statement from @lwvaz @protctdemocracy & @OsbornMaledon: https://t.co/SoRjmI92Vu pic.twitter.com/cY4AwvzNRB
— League of Women Voters of the US (@LWV) November 2, 2022
As the date of the midterm elections draws closer, local and federal law enforcement officials have expressed anxiety over allegations of persons. Some were armed, observing 24-hour ballot boxes in the two counties. People attending the boxes have been accused of voter intimidation by some voters after they were seen taking photos and recordings of voters and following them as they voted.
Following the appearance of two individuals armed with firearms and clothed in bulletproof vests at an outdoor drop box in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa, sheriff’s deputies have been protecting the two outdoor drop boxes located in Maricopa County. The other outdoor drop box for the county is located at the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center in downtown Phoenix. This drop box is open 24 hours a day, but a chain link fence now encloses it.
Voters in the state of Arizona have been urged by Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich to report any instances of voter intimidation to law enforcement immediately and to submit complaints to his office.
The office of the United States Attorney in Arizona has promised to prosecute any violations of federal law and has stated that local police are on the “front line in efforts to ensure that all qualified voters can exercise their right to vote free of intimidation or other election abuses.” However, the office of the United States Attorney in Arizona has also stated that it will prosecute any violations of state law.
The judge stated that the assistance from the monitoring group “must not be taken as an admission they have engaged in any of these activities.” The provisional injunction that Liburdi gave on Tuesday will remain in place for two weeks.
The 250-foot perimeter that must be maintained around drop boxes applies to group members also wearing body armor.
Other requirements include that the organizations make it clear on their websites and social media accounts that the assertion that it is always against the law to drop off more than one ballot is false. Some people are exempt from this rule, including members of the same home, family members and carers.
Voter intimidation is completely unacceptable and undemocratic. We must protect the sanctity the ballot box so everyone can make independent decisions without the fear of violence. https://t.co/XRFKiDhdsX
— Carolyn B. Maloney (@RepMaloney) November 1, 2022
According to Alexander Kolodin, the primary attorney for the defendants, the League of Women Voters of Arizona was ultimately unsuccessful in its attempt to entirely halt the monitors’ mission. However, the groups are not pleased with the constraints because, as he explained, they could prevent them from deterring voters from stuffing ballot boxes.
They are concerned that they will not be able to record anything that takes on within the first 75 feet. It’s possible that they passed up a chance to prevent people from engaging in illegal behavior, “Kolodin added. Today’s order may make voting via dropbox a little less safe.
Kolodin is quoted as saying on KPHO-TV, a station affiliated with CBS in Phoenix, “We’re thrilled that the court did not shut down drop box surveillance.” The filming limit of 75 feet is something that we cannot have. That presents a significant challenge under the First Amendment.
🚨BREAKING: Arizona @ActiveRetirees and voter sue Cochise County, AZ officials to stop county from performing a hand count audit of all early vote ballots. Proud that @EliasLawGroup is in this fight for free and fair elections.https://t.co/T8HCnr57rT
— Marc E. Elias (@marceelias) October 31, 2022
However, according to KPHO, he refused to comment on whether or not Liburdi’s judgment will be appealed.
An analysis conducted by the Associated Press this summer concluded that the increased use of ballot drop boxes in the 2020 election did not result in any severe instances of voter fraud. The Arizona League of Women People encouraged voters to submit their ballots using the drop boxes.
“Today’s decision by the U.S. District Court is a victory for the voters of Arizona who have the right to cast their ballots free from intimidation, threats, or coercion,” Pinny Sheoran, the group’s president, said in a statement. “The decision is a victory for the voters of Arizona who have the right to cast their ballots free from intimidation, threats, or coercion.”
This case was consolidated with another one that was pending before Liburdi.
The judge stated on Friday that the Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans was unsuccessful in making its argument against Clean Elections USA. Another defendant, Voto Latino, was also taken out of the case.
The judge said in his opinion that the defendants had not made any statements in which they threatened to commit acts of criminal violence to a specific individual or group of individuals.
In his conclusion, Liburdi stated, “although this case most certainly poses important concerns, the Court is unable to fashion an injunction without infringing the First Amendment.” A member of the conservative organization known as the Federalist Society, the judge, was appointed to their position by President Trump.
On Monday, the Department of Justice said it would participate in the case, citing severe concerns over voter intimidation and stating that the activities generated such worries.
The Second Amendment doesn’t protect voter intimidation. It’s time to ban guns from polling places. https://t.co/2apUQTbGfP
— Brennan Center (@BrennanCenter) November 1, 2022
Luke Cilano, a member of the board of directors for the Lions of Liberty, stated last Wednesday that the organization has decided to abandon its “Operation Drop Box” effort “due to being lumped in with those who don’t conform to the law and our terms of participation.”
He stated that there is no affiliation between Clean Elections USA and the Lions of Liberty. They have some relationship with the Yavapai County Preparedness Team. However, he claims that the group did not monitor the ballot boxes.
The film “2000 Mules,” which has since been proven to be false, asserts that during the presidential election in 2020, people were hired to go between drop boxes and pack them with fake ballots. Similar groups around the United States have embraced the film despite its lack of credibility.
There is no evidence to support the idea that a network of ballot “mules” associated with Democrats has conspired to collect and deliver ballots to drop boxes, either in the presidential election that will take place in 2020 or the upcoming midterm elections. This is true for both sets of elections.
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