The Justice Department has entered the legal dispute over armed vigilantes’monitoring’ vote drop boxes in Arizona, expressing alarm but refraining from imposing directives.
Monday, the officials filed a “statement of interest” in a court case brought in response to the presence of armed men at polling places near Phoenix.
The Arizona League of Women Voters is attempting to prevent the Lions of Liberty and other right-wing organizations from organizing what they call’monitoring’ of ballot drop boxes.
A federal judge refused to halt the Lions of Liberty’s patrols on Friday, citing a valid concern but insufficient evidence that anyone’s rights were being violated.
The DOJ stated on Monday that the League’s charges “raise substantial concerns about voter intimidation.”
According to them, “vigilante ballot security efforts” and “private campaigns to video record voters” violate the federal Voting Rights Act.
The DoJ noted that citizen-led election monitoring activities are more likely to cause voters to fear harassment, intimidation, coercion, and interference with their voting rights.
The Department of Justice stated that the First Amendment’s right to assemble does not empower voters to be coerced.
The League of Women Voters is seeking a court order prohibiting armed vigilantes from gathering near the ballot drop boxes; a hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.
After U.S. District Court Judge Michael Liburdi concluded that the vigilante patrols did not violate anyone’s rights, the Justice Department intervened.
As midterm elections approach, the issue has gained national significance after stories of armed men guarding outdoor drop boxes in Maricopa County — the state’s most populous county — and remote Yavapai County.
Mid-October, armed men reportedly positioned themselves near a drop box in Mesa, a Phoenix suburb.
They reportedly wore tactical gear, including ballistic vests, and fled when police arrived.
The legal action was prompted by their presence, as activists wanted to avoid voter intimidation.
Mark Brnovich, the Republican attorney general of Arizona, has urged voters to immediately report any intimidation to police and submit a complaint with his office.
The state’s secretary of state reported last week that her office had forwarded six potential examples of 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.
State law mandates candidates, their campaigns, and observers to maintain a minimum distance of 75 feet from polling places.
Friday, Judge Liburdi stated, “Plaintiffs have shown no proof that defendants’ conduct constitutes an actual threat.”
According to the evidence, the defendants have not made any statements threatening unlawful violence against a specific individual or group of individuals.
The state is one of the epicenters of controversies around voter rights and election fraud.
President Joe Biden won the contested state by less than 10,000 votes, overturning decades of Republican dominance.
The outcome sparked a number of conspiracy theories regarding its possible causes.
Multiple investigations, including a biased ‘audit’ of Maricopa County by Cyber Ninjas, a group hired by the Republicans, concluded that there was no widespread voter fraud in 2020.
These conspiracies have spurred several efforts to monitor voting this time around.
The U.S. attorney’s office in Arizona committed to prosecute any violations of federal law, but stated that local police were responsible for ensuring that all eligible voters can exercise their right to vote without intimidation or other election abuses.
The office stated on Wednesday that it will actively protect the rights of all Arizonans to vote freely and legally during elections.
Acts which cross the line will not go unpunished, as seen by the several election threat-related federal felony prosecutions pending from alleged criminal behavior originating in our state.