POLITICS

Feds concerned about armed people at Arizona ballot boxes

Oct 31, 2022, 8:36 PM
PHOENIX, ARIZONA - AUGUST 02: A voter places a ballot in a drop box outside of the Maricopa County ...
PHOENIX, ARIZONA - AUGUST 02: A voter places a ballot in a drop box outside of the Maricopa County Elections Department on August 02, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. Arizonans are heading to the polls to vote in the state's midterm primary election. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Reports of people watching ballot boxes in Arizona, sometimes armed or wearing ballistic vests, raise serious concerns about voter intimidation, the Justice Department said Monday as it stepped into a lawsuit over the monitoring.

The statement from the Justice Department comes days after a federal judge refused to bar a group from monitoring the outdoor drop boxes in the suburbs of Phoenix.

Threats, intimidation and coercion are illegal under the federal Voting Rights Act, even if they doesn’t succeed, the government’s attorneys wrote. While lawful poll watching can support transparency, “ballot security forces” present a significant risk of voter intimidation, the court documents state.

“While the First Amendment protects expressive conduct and peaceable assembly generally, it affords no protection for threats of harm directed at voters,” U.S. government attorneys wrote.

The filing runs counter to a judge’s order Friday. U.S. District Court Judge Michael Liburdi found the allegations present “serious questions” but it wasn’t clear they were a ”true threat” to specific people or groups and barring them could violate the watchers’ freedom of speech.

Liburdi is a Trump appointee and a member of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal organization. The Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans is appealing the order in the swing state with several closely contested races this year.

The group sued a group calling itself Clean Elections USA after reports that people were watching 24-hour ballot boxes in Maricopa County, including some who were masked and armed. A separate suit was filed in rural Yavapai County, where the League of Women Voters alleges voters have been intimidated by three groups, including one associated with the far-right anti-government group Oath Keepers.

Groups ask appeals court to stop individuals surveilling voters at Arizona ballot drop boxes

The two cases were merged and the Justice Department filed a statement of interest Monday. Attorneys for Clean Elections USA did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Complaints that people were watching the boxes, taking photos and videos, and following voters alarmed local and federal law enforcement. Sheriff’s deputies began providing security around two outdoor drop boxes in Maricopa County after a pair of people carrying guns and wearing bulletproof vests showed up at a box in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa. Another 24-hour outdoor drop box in downtown Phoenix is now surrounded by a chain link fence.

The law doesn’t specifically list which activities are prohibited near polling places, but video recording and photographing voters has been recognized as a concerns for decades and was named in a 1994 Justice Department letter on potential violations of the Voting Rights Act, federal attorneys wrote.

As of last week, Arizona’s secretary of state said her office has referred six cases of potential voter intimidation to the state attorney general and the U.S. Department of Justice, as well as a threatening email sent to the state elections director. Arizona law states electioneers and monitors must remain 75 feet (23 meters) from a voting location.

Groups around the United States have embraced a film that has been discredited called “2000 Mules” that claimed people were paid to travel among drop boxes and stuff them with fraudulent ballots during the 2020 presidential vote.

There’s no evidence for the notion that a network of Democrat-associated ballot “mules” has conspired to collect and deliver ballots to drop boxes, either in the 2020 presidential vote or in the upcoming midterm elections.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Politics

Students at Juan Diego Catholic School (KSL-TV)...
Michael Locklear

Private schools celebrate state funding, expect ‘significant uptick in enrollment’

Utah’s private schools are celebrating that they’ll receive state funding for the first time through a new school choice program.
1 day ago
Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during an election night event at Mar-a-Lago on November ...
Meg Kinnard and Michelle L. Price

Trump says beating of Nichols ‘never should have happened’

Former President Donald Trump says the footage of the brutal beating of Tyre Nichols by five Memphis police officers is “horrible” and that the attack “never should have happened.”
1 day ago
$400 million set aside for tax cut...
Brooke Williams and Larry D. Curtis, KSL TV

Gov. Cox signs controversial bills on trans surgeries, student vouchers

Gov. Cox signed two bills Saturday morning and released statements regarding each.
1 day ago
$400 million set aside for tax cut...
Madison Swenson

Brett Garner elected to fill vacant seat in Utah House of Representatives

Brett Garner has been elected to fill Sen. Karen Kwan's former seat in the Utah House of Representatives.
2 days ago
Officers respond to Taylorsville High School on Jan. 26, 2023, after shots were fired in the parkin...
Erin Cox

Utah lawmakers pushing for greater school safety measures

Utah lawmakers are pushing for change in order to protect our students in schools.
2 days ago
FILE (KSL TV)...
Andrew Adams

Public educators say $42M for voucher program could have been better spent elsewhere

A bill that establishes a student voucher or “scholarship” program while giving public school teachers a raise cleared its final legislative hurdle Thursday as educators continued to raise concerns over the measure.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t Let a Ransomware Attack Get You Down | Protect Your Workplace Today with Cyber Insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
Feds concerned about armed people at Arizona ballot boxes