Arizona judge limits Clean Elections’ control of US ballot box


A federal judge has ordered an Arizona ballot box monitoring group that watches for signs of fraud to stay at least 75 feet away from ballot boxes and publicly correct its members’ false statements about Arizona’s election laws.

The sweeping order from U.S. District Judge Michael Liburdi limited what Clean Elections USA or its partners could do or say near the ballot boxes. The ruling prohibits Fight-Box viewers from taking photos or videos of voters and using the content to spread baseless allegations of electoral fraud. Clean Elections USA is among the groups echoing former President Donald Trump’s unproven claims of fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

The order, which imposes temporary restraining orders, prohibits the group from posting statements online about drop-box laws and from making future false statements about Arizona’s election law.

Penny Sheoran, president of the League of Women Voters of Arizona, a plaintiff in the lawsuit against Fair Elections USA, called the decision a “victory for Arizona voters who have the right to vote without intimidation.” or coercion.

Clean Choices USA agreed with some parts of the order but disputed others. A representative for the group and its founder said the group may appeal on First Amendment grounds.

Sheoran’s group and other suffrage activists He filed two lawsuits against Clean Choices USA; After that, the bags are mixed. Liburdi said he aims to strike a balance between the group’s First Amendment rights and the federal law that prohibits voter intimidation.

Liburdi is a long time Member of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group that believed the state should impose only limited restrictions on individual liberty and conform itself strictly to the US Constitution. He refused last week in a related case to ban groups from surveillance bins. In this case, he said he had not heard enough evidence that the actions of Clean Elections USA members posed a “genuine threat” to voters and concluded that he “cannot issue an order without violating the First Amendment.” The decision is being appealed.

A judge on Tuesday decided to grant a temporary restraining order after hearing testimony from a man who said he and his wife were harassed last month when they cast their ballots into a waiting box in Mesa, east of Phoenix.

The man, who testified on condition of anonymity for fear of harassment, said his wife was “terrified” when the couple went to cast their ballots and found up to 10 poll watchers with cameras waiting by the drop box.

A man approached him and told the court, “We are hunting a mule” – a reference to the ruined movie “2000 Mules”. In the year Drop boxes filled with fraudulent ballots during the 2020 election. Melody Jennings, the founder of Clean Votes USA, later posted a photo of the man online, suggesting his behavior at the ballot box was suspicious.

Liburdi said the evidence presented at trial was “very strong” and that “this narrowly tailored form of relief” was justified.

On Monday, the Justice Department filed a “statement of interest” in a lawsuit that said tracking ballot boxes could constitute illegal voter intimidation.

The Justice Department says ballot box monitoring may be illegal in Ariz.

On Tuesday, Arizona was once again a battleground state — one of several states where a close race for control of Congress could be decided along with state-level offices with powers over election administration. Ahead of election day, state election officials said they had received complaints of intimidation and intimidation at polling stations.

Ballot boxes are locked containers where voters deposit their mail-in ballots, usually open 24 hours a day. They are an option for voters who don’t want to mail in their ballots or don’t have the time to do so.

Trump and his supporters have made drop boxes the main site for baseless claims That they were used in a wider scheme to provide false cards during the 2020 presidential election.

The battle for control of the Senate has been marked by volatility as the midterms approach

Tuesday’s order extends some of the same protections typically offered at polling places to voters using ballot boxes.

Clean Vote USA members agree to refrain from carrying firearms or wearing body armor within 250 feet of any ballot box. within 75 feet of the ballot boxes or near the entrance to the buildings where the boxes are located; and tracking people who they know will deliberately drop their ballots, or shout or talk to people within 75 feet of a ballot box, unless they speak or shout first.

The group and leader Jennings also agreed to publicly state online and on Election Day that Arizona law allows people to vote multiple times under certain circumstances — correcting statements to the contrary made by Jennings in public forums.

Liburdi’s order prohibits the group and its affiliates from filming or photographing anyone within 75 feet of a ballot box, or posting information online about anyone who claims voters were defrauded “just because they put multiple ballots in a drop box.” He said. Clean Elections USA announced on November 8 that it would “cease and desist” from making false statements about Arizona’s law that covers “ballot suppression.”

Voter intimidation in Arizona’s ballot box keeps officials on the lookout

The group challenged false claims and allegations of voter fraud about Arizona’s law and its ban on photographing or filming voters.

Alexander Kolodin, an attorney with Clean Choices USA and Jennings, said these restrictions violate his clients’ First Amendment rights to free speech.

“We’re glad the court didn’t close the drop box,” Kolodin said, according to the Arizona Republic. “What we don’t have is a 75-foot filming limit. That’s a huge First Amendment problem.

“It has long been recognized that videotaping or photographing voters during the voting process raises particular concerns,” the Justice Department said in a filing Monday.

The Washington Post has obtained copies of previous complaints filed with law enforcement in Arizona that show election surveillance methods can lead to voter intimidation complaints.

“I stopped to vote at the Maricopa County Recorder’s office and there were two guys driving by filming everybody,” one voter said of his experience while casting a ballot in downtown Phoenix. “It may not be illegal to do this, it’s just very uncomfortable and scary.”

Surveillance video obtained by the Post shows a man interacting with a man off camera after dropping off his ballot on Oct. 17. (Video: Washington Post)

Amy Gardner, Tom Hamburger and Yvonne Wingate Sanchez contributed to this report.

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