Arizona Voters Describe Intimidation At The Ballot Box

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Arizona Voters Describe Intimidation At The Ballot Box
Arizona's secretary of state says the intent is to cast a chilling effect on people's freedom to vote.

In Arizona, where election results in 2020 were close and contested, they say they're protecting the vote. But some voters in Arizona say these ballot box watchers are intimidating them. 

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs told Newsy about six reports of alleged voter intimidation in Maricopa County in the last few days. 

"These reports have all been sent to the attorney general and the Department of Justice for investigation. And we absolutely believe that part of the intent of these vigilantes is to cast a chilling effect on people's freedom to vote," said Hobbs. 

Newsy obtained those voter complaints, which detail a group of people in camp chairs, who waited for voters to pull up to a ballot drop box outside a juvenile courthouse in Mesa — allegedly following, filming and photographing voters and their license plates in the name of "election security."

Two armed men wearing disguises and tactical gear also hung around another drop box in Mesa, according to local officials. The Maricopa County sheriff's office responded to incidents, and videos emerged online. 

The complaints are mainly aimed at a group called "Clean Elections USA," according to a lawsuit filed Monday. And members kept it vague with our local partner station. 

Online, Clean Elections references a debunked conspiracy film called "2000 Mules," claiming without evidence that so-called "'mules' were paid to go from drop box to drop box."

Melody Jennings is the founder of Clean Elections USA. 

"We're lining teams of hopefully up to 10 but as many as we can get around each move. And we're actually making a difference, we're actually seeing mules be intimidated from doing their thievery. We're not intimidating voters but the mules do not want to be caught on film," said Jennings. 

But Maricopa County's elections department showed Newsy how anyone can stream 24/7 live feeds of outdoor drop boxes online, without having to be there in person. The secretary of state said her office is also seeing election worker harassment. And she shared a disturbing new threat she received, saying, "if you (expletive) continue to (expletive) with the integrity of the AZ elections — we will find you. Remember the French Revolution of 1799?" 

"Not just me, but staff in our office have been subject to harassment and threats like this since the 2020 election. We've continued to focus on doing our jobs and making sure that voters can cast their ballots in in our in our elections. And we're going to continue to do that. This is the kind of chaos and fear that these folks are intent on continuing to sow. And it's part of their attempt to undermine confidence in our elections. We're not going to let it deter us. We're going to keep focused on doing our job," said Hobbs. 

According to Arizona law, uncredentialed observers must stay 75 feet away from voting locations, especially if carrying a weapon.  

NEWSY'S SASHA INGBER: Does what we're seeing in Arizona amount to real voter intimidation? 

DAVID BECKER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AND FOUNDER FOR THE CENTER FOR ELECTION INNOVATION & RESEARCH: They're wearing military-style garb. They're carrying weapons, obscuring their identity and trying to take pictures and video voters against their will and follow them. That is, by any reasonable definition, likely intimidating. And federal law makes it a crime to intimidate or attempt to intimidate any voter in a federal election.

The Maricopa County elections department has urged Arizonans to "become a poll worker or an official observer with your political party. Don't dress in body armor to intimidate voters as they are legally returning their ballots."