Worries over voter intimidation have only increased in the final days leading up to the midterms. Now, a federal judge in Arizona has refused to bar a group from monitoring outdoor ballot boxes in the Red state’s largest county, where watchers have shown up armed and in ballistic vests, saying to do so could “violate the monitors’ constitutional rights” without mentioning the rights and safety of the voters themselves.
U.S. District Court Judge Michael Liburdi said on Friday that the case “remained open” and that the Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans could try again to make its argument against a group calling itself Clean Elections USA. A second plaintiff, Voto Latino, was removed from the case.
Arizona law states that electioneers and monitors must remain 75 feet from a voting location.
On the same day that a man attempts to kill the Speaker of the House, a judge in Arizona has ruled that armed citizens can show up to *monitor* ballot boxes as part of their "constitutional rights." This is how democracy ends.
— alexwagner (@alexwagner) October 28, 2022
Local and federal law enforcement have been overwhelmed by reports of people, including some who were masked and armed, “watching” 24-hour ballot boxes from Maricopa County — the most populous county in Arizona — to rural Yavapai County as midterm elections near. Some voters have complained alleging voter intimidation after people watching the boxes took photos and videos and then followed voters.
New: A US judge in Arizona declines to bar group from monitoring ballot drop boxes, saying it would violate constitution. In other words, armed civilians can legally intimidate voters in the key swing state of Arizona — as long as they are standing 75 feet from the ballot box.
— Dash Dobrofsky (@DashDobrofsky) October 28, 2022
A second lawsuit involving charges of voter intimidation at drop boxes in Arizona’s Yavapai County has since been merged with the first one. Liburdi issued his ruling two days after a hearing on the first of two similar cases, where the attorney for Clean Elections USA had argued that such a broad restraining order would be unconstitutional.
NEW: several people have been sitting outside the Maricopa County elections headquarters in Arizona outside 1 of 2 ballot drop boxes.
They have their own cameras rolling, pointed right at the drop box.
— Nicole Grigg (@NicoleSGrigg) October 20, 2022
Liburdi concluded that “while this case certainly presents serious questions, the Court cannot craft an injunction without violating the First Amendment.” The judge is a Trump appointee and a member of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal organization.
The Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans said it was disappointed. “We continue to believe that Clean Elections USA’s intimidation and harassment is unlawful,” it said, shortly before filing an appeal.
Follow Tara Dublin on Twitter @taradublinrocks.