Federal Judge Restricts How Right-Wing Group Can Patrol Arizona Drop Boxes

Phoenix — A federal judge on Tuesday ordered armed members of a group monitoring ballot drop boxes in Arizona to stay at least 250 feet away from the locations following complaints that people wearing masks and carrying guns were intimidating voters.

U.S. District Court Judge (Trump) Michael Liburdi said members of Clean Elections USA, its leader and anyone working with them are also barred from filming or following anyone within 75 feet of a ballot drop box or the entrance to a building that houses one. They also may not speak to or yell at individuals within that perimeter unless spoken to first.

“It is paramount that we balance the rights of the defendant to engage in their constitutionally protected First Amendment activity with the interest in the plaintiffs and in voters casting a vote free of harassment and intimidation,” Liburdi said

CBS

The judge handed down his decision just four days after he ruled the other way in a related case, declining on Friday to issue an order restricting the drop box stakeouts. At the time, Liburdi said there wasn’t enough evidence to curtail the group’s First Amendment right to free assembly.

Between the two rulings, the Justice Department weighed in on the case. In a legal brief filed Monday, federal prosecutors said the right-wing group’s “vigilante ballot security efforts” were likely illegal and that they “raise serious concerns of voter intimidation.” The Justice Department didn’t formally take a side, but its filing endorsed some of the legal theories put forward by the group that filed the lawsuit, the League of Women Voters.

An Arizona voter testified at Tuesday’s five-hour hearing about his encounter with right-wing “bullies” at a ballot drop box, describing how they “terrified” his wife by filming them and falsely accusing them of voter fraud. The 51-year-old voter testified about his voting experience on the evening of October 17. To protect his safety, his identity was not made public. But the voter said he and his wife went to a drop box in Mesa and were immediately harassed by a group of people with cameras, who accused them of being “mules.” That phrase is popular in right-wing circles to describe people who illegally cast mail ballots.

CNN

Alexander Kolodin, a lawyer who represents both Clean Elections USA and Ms. Jennings, said in court that he would most likely appeal the latest ruling. Although Clean Elections USA had voluntarily agreed to the restrictions on weapons, as well as on talking to, yelling at, or otherwise confronting or following voters, he argued that the restrictions on photography, online posting and discussing Arizona voting laws infringed on free speech.

NY Times

This is a follow-up to: US Judge in Arizona Lets Group Monitor Ballot Drop Boxes from last Friday

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