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 on Tuesday targeting groups and individuals it says are plotting to intimidate Arizona voters through a coordinated effort known as “Operation Drop Box.”

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the league in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona by a group known as Protect Democracy. It’s the second lawsuit recently filed in federal court targeting the conduct of people — some of them armed — who went around filming voters at polling stations in Arizona.

The lawsuit claims that the conduct violates the Voting Rights Act and another federal law that prohibits conspiracies to intimidate voters. She is seeking a court order to block the defendants from “further intimidating voters or otherwise violating the law.”

In the lawsuit, the league claims that the conduct of people who tracked discarded boxes in Yabapai and Maricopa counties is part of a “growing program of intimidation and harassment of voters in Arizona” that infringes on voters’ right to vote “free” from intimidation, threats or coercion.

The voting rights organization alleges that Lions of Liberty LLC and the Yavapai County Mobilization Team — two groups the league says are affiliated with the Yavapai County Oath Guards — along with a group known as Clean Elections USA, “actively planned, coordinated, and recruited for extensive campaigns to track and intimidate Arizona voters at the polls and incriminate them without basis – directly or indirectly – in committing voter fraud, and spreading false information about legal forms of voting.”

An official with Yabapai County’s preparedness team declined to comment on the lawsuit when reached by CNN on Tuesday. A lawyer for Clean Elections USA did not immediately respond to CNN’s request. CNN also reached out to the Lions of Liberty through the group’s website.

The lawsuit states that the behavior of the supervisors – some of whom wore masks and tactical equipment – seems inspired by the debunked movie known as “2000 Mules”, which promoted the right-wing conspiracy theory called “Kalpi”. Mules” illegally dropped a number of ballots in boxes during the last election. The lawsuit states that the film has been “absolutely defamed by experts” and includes “images of innocent voters voting legally” in order to “sell a dangerous conspiracy theory.”

People who take out the ballots, the league argued, are also spreading the lie that Arizonans are breaking the law every time they deposit a ballot for another person – when in fact state law allows household members, caregivers and election officials to assist voters by dropping off ballots for them.

The lawsuit alleges that the Liberty Lions and the Yabapai County Preparedness Team are engaged in an “extensive campaign to monitor all drop boxes in Yabapai County, photograph the voters and then report to law enforcement any voters who deposit multiple ballots.” The plan involves asking “Patriots” to take shifts and monitor all ballot boxes in the county and take pictures of every voter who casts more than one ballot, as well as pictures of their car and license plates, and then report their findings to the Yabapai County Sheriff.

The league alleges that Clean Elections USA and its founder Melody Jennings organized a statewide campaign known as the “Dropbox 2022 Initiative” to track and harass voters — a plan designed to “baselessly accuse voters of being ‘mules’ and ‘eliminate’ them by publicly disclosing the information.” their personal online,” the lawsuit states.

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

U.S. District Judge Michael Livordi said at a hearing Wednesday that he hopes to issue his ruling in the case by Friday, but said it may take the weekend to complete it.

The lawsuit alleges that Clean Elections USA violated federal law with incidents near polling places in Arizona and pointed to three complaints filed by voters with state election officials.

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

The defendants’ attorney, Veronica Lucero, denied the charges Wednesday, telling a judge there was no direct evidence linking her clients to the conduct reported to Arizona election officials as intimidating.

But attorneys for the plaintiffs presented several witnesses who said they felt threatened by the conduct of the people — some of whom were armed — at polling stations across Arizona.

The two groups, the Arizona Alliance of Retired Americans and Voto Latino, are seeking a temporary injunction and preliminary injunction that would prevent the defendants from “gathering within sight of discarded boxes; following, photographing or otherwise recording voters or potential voters, those assisting voters or potential voters , or their vehicles near the checkout; and from training, organizing or directing others to do these activities.”

This story was updated with additional information Wednesday.


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