Lawsuit filed to stop vigilante surveillance of drop boxes in Arizona



CNN

The Arizona chapter of the League of Women Voters filed a lawsuit in federal court late Tuesday targeting groups and individuals they say are planning to intimidate Arizona voters in a coordinated effort known as “Operation Drop Box.”

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Alliance in the US District Court for the District of Arizona by a group known as Protect Democracy. It’s the second recent lawsuit filed in federal court that focuses on the behavior of people — some of whom are armed — who have been tampering with and filming ballot boxes in Arizona.

The lawsuit alleges that the conduct violates the Voting Rights Act and another federal law that prohibits conspiracies to intimidate voters. It seeks a court order barring the defendants from “further intimidating voters or otherwise violating the law.

In the lawsuit, the League argues that the behavior of the people who were checking the drop boxes in Yavapai and Maricopa Counties is part of a “growing campaign of intimidation and election harassment in Arizona” that undermines the rights of voters to vote. “free. by threat, intimidation or coercion.”

The voting rights organization says that Lions of Liberty LLC and the Yavapai County Preparedness Team — two groups the League says are affiliated with Oath Keepers of Yavapai County — as well as a group known as Clean Elections USA, “are planning actively, coordinating and recruiting for widespread campaigns to monitor and intimidate Arizona voters at the ballot box and accuse them – directly or indirectly – of committing voter fraud, and spreading information false about the legal forms of voting.”

An official with the Yavapai County Law Enforcement Division declined to comment on the case when reached by CNN on Tuesday. An attorney for Fair Elections USA did not immediately respond to CNN’s inquiry. CNN also reached out to the Lions of Liberty through the team’s website.

The lawsuit notes that the behavior of the guards – some of whom were wearing masks and tactical gear – appears to have been inspired by a movie clip known as “mules 2000,” which promoted the conspiracy theory. of the right-wing so-called “choice”. mules” illegally cast many votes during the last election. The issue says the film has been “criticized by experts” and includes “images of innocent voters voting legally” in order to “sell a dangerous conspiracy theory.”

Ballot drop boxes, the League argued, are also misrepresenting that Arizonans are breaking the law whenever they cast a ballot for someone else — when state law allows it. family members, guardians as well as election officials to do so. help voters by letting them vote.

The lawsuit says the Lions of Liberty and the Yavapai County Preparedness Team engaged in “a widespread campaign to check all the boxes in Yavapai County, film voters, and report to the law enforcement agencies on voters who cast multiple ballots.” The plan involves asking “patriots” to take turns checking all the boxes in the district and taking photos of any voter who submits more than one ballot, along with pictures of their cars and license plates, then report their findings to. commander of Yavapai County.

The league says Clean Elections USA and its founder Melody Jennings have organized a nationwide campaign known as the “Dropbox Initiative 2022” to track and harass voters – a plan aimed at “unreasonably accusing voters of being ‘ limules’ and being “likeable”. revealing their personal information publicly on the Internet,” the lawsuit said.

Earlier this week, a group of retirees and a group of Latino voters sought a temporary restraining order against Clean Elections USA, and its founder, Melody Jennings, alleging they coordinated a campaign of voter intimidation. Arizona.

US District Judge Michael Liburdi said at the hearing on Wednesday that he hopes to issue his ruling in the case on Friday but said it could take a week to complete it.

The lawsuit alleged that Clean Elections USA was in violation of federal law with events near Arizona polling stations and pointed to three complaints sent by voters to election officials in the state.

The Arizona Secretary of State has sent those and several similar harassment complaints to the US Department of Justice.

The attorney for the defendants, Veronica Lucero, pushed the charges on Wednesday, telling the judge that there is no direct evidence linking her clients to the acts reported to Arizona election officials as threatening.

But prosecutors’ attorneys presented several witnesses who said they felt intimidated by the behavior of people — some of whom were armed — at ballot boxes across Arizona.

The two groups, Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans and Voto Latino, are seeking a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction that would prevent the defendants from “assembling in front of the boxes; following, taking photographs of, or recording voters or prospective voters, assisting voters or prospective voters, or their vehicles in drop boxes; and to train, organize or guide others to perform those duties.”

This story was updated with additional information Wednesday.

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