Politics

Election Skeptics Fall Far Short Of Goal To Observe 'Every Ballot Box'

Skeptics of the 2020 election planned to stake out ballot boxes during the 2022 midterm elections. Their plan failed to materialize beyond Arizona.

Election Skeptics Fall Far Short Of Goal To Observe 'Every Ballot Box'
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An effort by 2020 election doubters and deniers to monitor outdoor ballot drop boxes across the country this year fizzled out, according to voter complaint records reviewed by Newsy and interviews with election officials in battleground states. 

"It didn't happen in a very coordinated way and certainly not in the numbers we expected," said Matthew Weil, executive director of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Elections Project.  

Weil said that before Election Day voting officials in various states were alarmed to see reports of private citizens, inspired by misinformation claiming fraud in the 2020 presidential election, staking out ballot drop boxes as early voting began in Arizona. 

The observers sat for hours on sidewalks in camping chairs next to video cameras atop tripods trained on voters as they deposited ballots in official collection bins. 

"I watched them as they jumped behind the cameras as I came through the parking lot," said John Evans, a Phoenix voter. "I just felt like my privacy was invaded."

Clean Elections USA led an effort to recruit thousands of ballot box watchers across the nation. The group had spread widely debunked claims about “mules” paid to stuff ballot boxes with fraudulent votes during the 2020 presidential election.  

Social media posts show the plan this year was to catch vote fraudsters in the act, focusing first on Arizona, a state that has been the target of baseless claims about illegal voting.  

"Take pictures/video … 8-10 ppl per box … Tailgate party, Bible study, whatever. Shine your headlights on the box," said an Oct. 7 social media post by the group’s founder, Melody Jennings, on Truth Social, the Twitter alternative founded by former President Donald Trump. 

A month earlier, Jennings posted there would be surveillance at "every drop box across America VERY SOON." 

Jennings did not respond to interview requests. 

Some of the observers in Arizona wore masks and were reportedly armed.  

Civic groups argued in court that the citizen surveillance amounted to “vigilante voter intimidation.”  

“If you were a voter and you were in the act of just voting lawfully … you had to be treated kind of like a paparazzi with this like army of photograph photographers aimed at you,” said Orion Danjuma, an attorney at Protect Democracy, a voting rights group that challenged the Arizona drop box monitors in court. 

But “Drop Box Initiative 2022,” as supporters named it, seems to have been a flop outside Arizona. 

Records from the Arizona Secretary of State’s office show 23 complaints from voters related to ballot drop surveillance.  

But complaint data Newsy has received so far from five other classic battleground states shows few reports of trouble at ballot boxes outside Arizona. 

There were five voter complaints in North Carolina related to unwelcome surveillance. 

And there were no complaints about drop box monitors in records sent to Newsy from four other states: Georgia, Minnesota, Nevada and Pennsylvania. 

Election officials in those states confirmed they did not see the kind of ballot box monitoring that took place in Arizona.  

Clean Elections USA had said it planned to send any videos of suspicious activity to local sheriffs, but as in 2020, there have been no reports from law enforcement of widespread voting fraud in 2022.  

The website for Clean Elections USA has been almost entirely deleted, with no explanation about why there weren’t more volunteers putting eyes on boxes.  

“I think the reason we didn't see a whole lot of this happening across the country is because sitting in beach chairs outside of a drop box is probably a fairly boring way to spend your day,” Weil said. “It’s literally watching somebody put a piece of paper in a secure drop box, so there really wasn’t much to do.”

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