Ballot drop box observers face lawsuits from voting rights groups

By Sasha Hupka || Arizona Republic

Several voting rights groups are asking federal judges to stop ballot box observers from staking out Arizona voting locations.

Two legal challenges filed this week — one from the Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans and Voto Latino, another filed by Protect Democracy on behalf of The League of Women Voters of Arizona — target conservative group Clean Elections USA, which has organized drop box surveillance in the Phoenix area. The latter suit also names Lions of Liberty, a right-wing group in Yavapai County.

Neither organization immediately responded to The Arizona Republic’s request for comment.

The intent and effect of the observers is to intimidate voters, according to the lawsuit filed by Protect Democracy. 

“Indeed, because of Defendants’ campaigns, Arizona voters who wish to lawfully use dropboxes must do so under threat that they will be monitored by armed vigilantes, have their faces and cars filmed, be baselessly reported to law enforcement, and have their reputations and personal safety put at risk,” the lawsuit reads.

Protect Democracy is a national nonpartisan nonprofit that seeks to check authoritarian attacks, according to its website. The League of Women Voters, also a nonpartisan group, advocates for voting rights. The Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans is a progressive grassroots organization that supports seniors’ issues and Voto Latino is a nonprofit focused on getting out the young Latino vote.

The lawsuits come days after ballot drop box watchers began taking photos and video of voters at Maricopa County’s two outdoor ballot drop boxes near downtown Phoenix and Mesa. Voters also have reported seeing monitors at drop boxes in Yavapai County. 

Several Maricopa County leaders, including Recorder Stephen Richer and Sheriff Paul Penzone, have asked the drop box monitors to go home. Nevertheless, the groups have remained a constant presence at the voting locations.

So far, Arizona election officials have referred six voter intimidation complaints to federal authorities for investigation. All have been from the Phoenix area.

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