People in body armor and carrying guns have been observed in recent days photographing and filming voters and their cars at polling stations in multiple states after former President Trump and his allies urged his supporters to keep an eye on them.
The temporary restraining order prohibits members of Clean Elections USA, led by Melody Jennings, a follower of QAnon who claims to steal the 2020 election, from photographing or photographing voters within 75 feet of the drop box; Follow up on people who are going to drop ballot papers; be physically within 75 feet of the chests or an entrance to a facility where the chests are located; It is yelling at or talking to voters who drop ballot papers unless participation takes place first. Judge Michael Libordi also ordered Jennings and Clean Elections USA to publish that Arizona law allows people to drop ballot papers for relatives and spouses on social media. Jennings has repeatedly claimed that voters cannot drop more than one ballot.
The move comes after Trump-appointed Libordi on Friday rejected a court order from the Arizona Alliance of Retired Americans to prevent clean elections in the USA from monitoring voters who drop their ballots, saying the Constitution protects the activities of citizens huddled near polls.
Libordi said Tuesday that the temporary restraining order balances the First Amendment with voting privacy.
Balance [the drop box watchers] They can get their information as long as the vehicle, the individual, is outside that 75-foot limit, but when that person actually gets into the vehicle to grab a ballot or a ballot or put the ballot in the drop box, they’re entitled to greater privacy than surveillance and video recording And photograph it, similar to what they would get at a voting site.”
The League of Women Voters in Arizona, which has sued two far-right groups, including Clean Election USA, argues that organized third-party surveillance of ballot boxes, such as taking videos or photos of people dropping ballot papers and discussing the footage, is the reason behind the lawsuit. On social media, it amounts to illegal voter intimidation.
“From the primaries so far…potential voter intimidation…has advanced into the drop boxes and made us jump to what we normally do to educate voters and tell them how to protect their votes,” Benny Schoran, the president of the League of Women Voters of Arizona, testified Tuesday.
Earlier this week, the court combined two separate court cases in Arizona seeking to prevent the Arizona branch of Oath Keepers and Clean Elections USA from monitoring drop boxes in Maricopa and Yavapai counties in Arizona. The third group, the Liberty Lions, was dropped from the League of Women Voters case after agreeing to stop monitoring hanging boxes.
The Arizona Coalition of Retired Americans has filed an emergency appeal in the United States’ Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
In its filing, the Department of Justice argued that an injunction prohibiting threatening activity could be crafted in a manner consistent with First Amendment protections for freedom of expression and assembly.
“While the First Amendment protects expressive behavior and peaceful assembly in general, it provides no protection for threats to harm voters,” the department’s attorneys wrote. “…the First Amendment does not protect the right of individuals to assemble to engage in voter intimidation or coercion. Nor does it transform the unlawful activity of one individual—voter intimidation—into an authorized activity merely because several individuals have come together to engage in it.”
The use of safe ballot boxes has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Alt-right interest has increased in the debunked movie “2000 Mules,” which alleged that “ballot mules” tracked by mobile phone geolocation data were filled with fraudulent ballot boxes during the 2020 election.
Libordi also heard testimony Tuesday from several people who said they were filmed and photographed when they went to vote, including a witness who has not been named to the public due to safety concerns.
A voter from Mesa, Arizona, said he met a group of eight to 10 people while handing out his and his wife’s ballots on October 17. Lens, the witness said, noting that his wife wanted to leave without voting. They were concerned that the group would use the lens to photograph their signatures and phone numbers, which were on the ballot envelope as required by Arizona law. The witness said he hid the ballot papers under his shirt while he was out of the car. The group yelled at him saying they were “catch mules” and followed the couple’s car as they tried to leave the parking lot, he said.
“My wife was terrified,” he said, before taking a few moments to secure himself.
Jennings, the leader of Clean Elections USA, bragged online that photos and videos of the man went viral on social media, claiming that her group had taken a “mule.” The photos also appeared in news stories nationwide. The witness said that only a handful of family and friends knew he was the person in the photos and feared he would be identified and harassed.
The Justice Department took up the case on Monday, arguing in a brief that monitoring dropped boxes could amount to unlawful voter intimidation.
The Justice Department said in its “statement of interests” that such “polling security measures,” may violate the federal Voting Rights Act. Monday’s filing of a dossier marked the first time the Department of Justice has been involved in a case during this midterm election cycle.
The Justice Department file states that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 provides voters broad legal protection against coercion and intimidation during every step of the voting process—including depositing ballots at ballot boxes provided by local or state law.
“Although legal ballot monitoring activities can support transparency and democratic accountability, when ordinary citizens constitute ‘ballot security forces’ and attempt to assume the legitimate role of the state in supervising and controlling elections, the risk of voter intimidation — and violation of federal law — is significant,” he said. Section in the deposit.