Lawsuit filed to stop vigilante surveillance of drop boxes in Arizona


The Arizona chapter of the League of Women Voters filed a lawsuit in federal court Tuesday afternoon targeting groups and individuals it says are conspiring to intimidate Arizona voters through a coordinated effort known as “Operation Drop Box”.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the League in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona by a group known as Protect Democracy. It is the second recent lawsuit filed in federal court against the conduct of individuals, some of whom are armed, who have been watching and filming voters at the polls in Arizona.

The suit alleges the conduct violates the Voting Rights Act and another federal law that prohibits conspiracies to intimidate voters. He is seeking an injunction to prevent the defendants from “further intimidating voters or violating the law.”

In the lawsuit, the League argues that the conduct of those who have been monitoring the ballot boxes in Yavapai and Maricopa counties is part of a “growing scheme of voter intimidation and harassment in Arizona” that undermines voters’ rights to vote “freely”. of intimidation, threats or coercion”.

The voting rights organization alleges that Lions of Liberty LLC and the Yavapai County Preparedness Team, two groups the League says are related to the Oath Keepers of Yavapai County, along with a group known as Clean Elections USA, have been “actively planning, coordinating and recruiting for widespread campaigns to surveil and intimidate Arizona voters at the polls and baselessly accuse them, either directly or indirectly, of committing voter fraud and spreading false information about legally valid forms of voting.

An official with the Yavapai County Preparedness Team declined to comment on the lawsuit when contacted by CNN on Tuesday. An attorney for Clean Elections USA did not immediately respond to CNN’s inquiry. CNN has also reached out to the Lions of Liberty through the group’s website.

The lawsuit notes that the behavior of the vigilantes, some of whom wore masks and tactical gear, appeared to be inspired by the debunked movie known as “2000 Mules,” which advanced the right-wing conspiracy theory that the so-called “voting “. mules” illegally left several ballots in the ballot boxes during the last election. The lawsuit notes that the film “has been roundly discredited by experts” and includes “images of innocent voters voting legally” to “provide a dangerous conspiracy theory.”

The League argued that the people who are marking the ballots are also spreading the lie that Arizonans are breaking the law whenever they cast a ballot for someone else, when in fact state law allows household members, caregivers and to the electoral officials. help voters by dropping off their ballots for them.

The lawsuit alleges that the Lions of Liberty and the Yavapai County Preparedness Team are engaged in “a widespread campaign to monitor every ballot box in Yavapai County, film voters, and then report to law enforcement the voters who deposit multiple ballots”. The scheme includes asking “patriots” to take turns monitoring every mailbox in the county and take photos of any voter who deposits more than one ballot, as well as photos of their car and license plates, then report their findings to the Sheriff of Yavapai County.

The League claims that Clean Elections USA and its founder Melody Jennings have organized a statewide campaign known as the “Dropbox Initiative 2022” to surveil and harass voters; publicly disclosing your personal information online,” the lawsuit said.

Earlier this week, a retiree association and an organization for Latino voters sought a temporary restraining order against Clean Elections USA and its founder, Melody Jennings, alleging they are coordinating a campaign of intimidation of voters in Arizona.

U.S. District Judge Michael Liburdi said at a hearing Wednesday that he expected to issue his decision on the case by Friday, but said it might take the weekend to complete it.

The lawsuit alleged that Clean Elections USA was violating federal law with incidents near polling locations in Arizona and pointed to three complaints that have been filed by voters with state election officials.

The Arizona Secretary of State has referred these and several similar complaints of bullying to the US Department of Justice.

The defendants’ attorney, Veronica Lucero, rejected the allegations Wednesday, telling the judge there was no direct evidence connecting her clients to conduct that has been reported to Arizona election officials as bullying.

But attorneys for the plaintiffs presented several witnesses who said they were intimidated by the behavior of people, some of whom have been armed, at the polls across Arizona.

The two groups, the Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans and Voto Latino, are seeking the temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction preventing the defendants “from congregating within sight of mailboxes; to follow, photograph or otherwise record voters or prospective voters, those who assist voters or prospective voters, or their vehicles in or around a post office; and to train, organize or direct other people to carry out these activities”.

This story was updated with additional information Wednesday.


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