Judge refuses to ban group from viewing Arizona polling places

A federal judge on Friday refused to ban a group By monitoring the outside ballot boxes In Arizona’s largest county, to say so may be a violation of its constitutional rights.

US District Court Judge Michael Liberdi delivered the ruling on Friday. Local and federal law enforcement have been alarmed by reports of people watching 24-hour ballots as the midterm elections in Arizona’s most populous county – and rural Yavapai County – loom.

Holiday the two cases were merged The outside ballot boxes were accused of intimidating voters, banning people from monitoring sites, taking photos and videos, and following voters.

Sheriff’s deputy are providing security around two outdoor drop boxes in Maricopa County after a pair of masked men wearing tactical gear appeared in a box in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa. The county’s other 24-hour outdoor drop box is at the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center in downtown Phoenix, now surrounded by a chain link fence.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Branovich, a Republican, has called on voters to immediately report any threats to the police and file a complaint with his office. Arizona’s secretary of state said this week that his office had received six counts of possible voter intimidation to the state attorney general and the US Department of Justice, as well as sent a threatening email to the state elections director.

The US Attorney’s office in Arizona has vowed to prosecute any violations of federal law, but said that local police were “in charge of the frontline in efforts to ensure that all eligible voters are protected from bullying or other election misconduct.” able to vote freely.”

“We will vigorously defend the rights of all Arizonans to vote freely and legally during the election,” the office said on Wednesday. “As pending cases relating to multiple election threats of federal felony convictions from alleged criminal activity arising from our state show, actions that exceed the threshold will go unresolved.”

In the first case, the Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans and Voto Latino groups on Wednesday asked Liberty to ban members of a group calling itself Clean Election USA from gathering at the sight of drop boxes in Maricopa County, following voters. , and stop taking pictures. Videos of him and his cars.

The attorney for Clean Election USA said such a sweeping sanctions order would be unconstitutional.

Meanwhile, the Citizens Clean Electoral Commission, an Arizona state agency, voted unanimously Thursday that its legal counsel seeking a court order restraining the watchdog group from using the name “Clean Elections.” The commission, created in 1998 to provide voters with non-partisan election information, said it had been barred by angry calls from those confused with the watchdog group.

The second lawsuit was added to the first case, involving ballot boxes in Arizona’s Yavapai County, where the League of Women Voters alleged that voters were intimidated by Clean Election USA along with The Lions of Liberty and the Yavapai County Preparatory Team. who are associated with the far-right anti-government group Oath Keepers.

Lions of Liberty board member Luke Silano said the organization had abandoned the “Operation Drop Box” initiative on Wednesday, “together with people who do not comply with the law and our rules of engagement.”

Silano said the “official stand down order” for all members was in response to pending litigation.

“Our goal is not to scare people and stop them from voting,” he said. “We love our country so much.”

Silano said that The Lions of Liberty is not in any way associated with Clean Election USA. He said his group is affiliated with the Yavapai County Preparatory Team, but the team was not involved in ballot box surveillance.

Similar groups across the United States have adopted a film that has been infamously dubbed “2000 Mules”, which claims to trick people into traveling between drop boxes and make them fraudulent during the 2020 presidential election. Payment was made to fill in the ballots.

There is no evidence for the notion that a network of ballot “mules” affiliated with Democrats conspired to collect and distribute ballots in drop boxes, either in the 2020 presidential election or in the upcoming midterm elections.

Republican Kari Lake, who is running for governor, has been pushing threats to voter integrity throughout her campaign. “See all the drop boxes. Period. Save the Republic,” tweeted Arizona Republican Secretary of State candidate Mark Finchem.

Maricopa County recorder Stephen Richter, who is in charge of voter registration and early vote counts, told CBS News this week that he “threatened, you name it. Threatened to harass you online, but to physically harm you.” Threatened to deliver.”

Richter, a Republican, told CBS News he was shocked by his own party’s election denial.

“It’s especially frustrating when people intentionally do this to satisfy their desire for political office or profit,” he said.

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