Judge rules groups can monitor voter drop boxes in Arizona, intimidation fears don’t hold

An attempt by the left to stop poll watchers in Arizona from keeping an eye out on ballot drop boxes has failed thanks to a Trump-appointed federal judge’s ruling.

The case concerns Clean Elections USA and its founder Melody Jennings, who has reportedly been publicly calling “for individuals to gather at ballot drop box locations and surveil voters,” according to CNN.

FYI, Jennings recently appeared on Steve Bannon’s podcast:

Her plea for people to surveil drop box locations triggered a legal complaint from the Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans which sued, accusing Jennings and her group “of coordinating a campaign of voter intimidation,” as noted by CNN.

“At least five times last week, supporters of defendant Clean Elections USA (‘CEUSA’), an organization founded by Defendant Melody Jennings, gathered at ballot drop boxes in Maricopa County with the express purpose of deterring voters — who Defendants irrationally fear are ‘ballot mules’ — from depositing their ballots,” the lawsuit, filed Monday, reads.

“And things are getting worse: on Friday, two of the drop box watchers were armed and wearing tactical gear, and again on Saturday, armed and masked individuals were gathered near drop boxes. Defendants’ activities have already prompted three voter intimidation complaints that have been referred to the Department of Justice, as well as responses and investigations by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department,” it continues.

The lawsuit goes on to say that Jennings had stated in a radio interview that her group’s “goal is to be a deterrent.”

For what? That’s not specified in the lawsuit, though the presumption is she meant be a deterrent for voter fraud — which, FYI, is a real phenomenon.

“To achieve that goal, Defendants engage in conduct that is clearly meant to intimidate. In addition to sending crowds to loom over voters, Defendant Jennings has threatened to use the images and video captured by those crowds to ‘dox’ people; that is posting online a person’s personal information, opening them up to harassment by the general public,” the suit continues.

Jennings’ attorney, Veronica Lucero, pushed back on this argument during a hearing Wednesday by “telling the judge there was no direct evidence connecting her clients to conduct that has been reported to Arizona election officials as intimidating” and arguing that her client had always “encouraged everyone to follow the law,” according to CNN.

U.S. District Judge Michael T. Liburdi agreed with the defendant, ruling Friday that the poll watchers’ behavior doesn’t really count as truly menacing/threatening behavior.

“On this record, Defendants have not made any statements threatening to commit acts of unlawful violence to a particular individual or group of individuals. There is no evidence that Defendants have publicly posted any voter’s names, home addresses, occupations, or other personal information,” the judge wrote.

As evidence, he “pointed to assertions from Jennings that her group’s volunteers follow the law and to social media posts instructing them not to engage with voters,” according to CNN.

“Even if these statements are mere window dressing, a reasonable listener could not interpret Ms. Jennings’ social media pronouncements that alleged ‘mules’ will ‘shrink back into the darkness’ following her drop box initiative as true threats,” the judge continued.

“The Court acknowledges that Plaintiffs and many voters are legitimately alarmed by the observers filming at the County’s early voting drop boxes,” he added, noting that the Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans had not satisfied the legal requirements for an emergency injunction against Clean Elections USA and its allies.

That being said, poll watchers may still be in trouble thanks to Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat:

This isn’t the only elections-related lawsuit that’s been filed. Indeed, over 100 lawsuits have reportedly already been filed this election cycle, most of them by Republicans.

“More than 100 lawsuits have been filed this year around the upcoming midterm elections. The suits, largely by Republicans, target rules over mail-in voting, early voting, voter access, voting machines, voting registration, the counting of mismarked absentee ballots and access for partisan poll watchers,” the Associated Press reported Thursday.

“It’s the most litigation ever before an election and it’s likely a preview of a potentially contentious post-election landscape. The strategy was born in part of the failure of allies of former President Donald Trump to successfully challenge and overturn the free and fair results of the 2020 presidential election,” the AP added.

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Vivek Saxena

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