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Arizona Election Lawsuit: Justice Department Says Arizona ‘Ballot Protection Efforts’ Likely Illegal

Arizona Election Lawsuit: Justice Department Says Arizona ‘Ballot Protection Efforts’ Likely Illegal


Washington
CNN

On Monday, the Ministry of Justice entered the followed the election lawsuit closely in Arizona where several civic groups accused right-wing activists of voter intimidation at the ballot box.

The allegations “raise serious concerns about voter intimidation,” the Ministry of Justice wroteadding that “ballot security efforts by vigilantes” and “private campaigns to videotape voters” likely violate the federal Voting Rights Act.

“Citizen-led election monitoring activities are more likely to place voters in reasonable fear of harassment, intimidation, coercion, or interference with their voting rights,” the DOJ adds.

The department has not taken an official position on what the judge should do.

The lawsuit pits the League of Women Voters against several right-wing groups that have promoted false claims about voter fraud and the 2020 election. The group accused groups of sending vigilante poll watchers, including some with guns and tactical gear, to film and intimidate voters in drop-off boxes.

U related case brought by separate groups, a federal judge refused to issue a court order banning right-wing activists from gathering near ballot boxes or photographing voters near ballot boxes. District Judge Michael Liburdi, who is overseeing both cases, said there were legitimate concerns about the conduct, but at this stage there was not enough evidence to limit anyone’s First Amendment rights.

The League of Women Voters is still seeking a court order that would, among other things, specifically prohibit the gathering of armed vigilantes near drop boxes. A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.

Representatives of the right-wing groups involved in the case — the Yavapai County Prep Team, Clean Elections USA and the Lions of Liberty — did not comment on CNN’s previous coverage of the lawsuit. A lawyer for Clean Elections pushed back against allegations made in an earlier case at a hearing last week, and their website says their goal is to ensure that “every legal vote must be counted” and to ensure that “illegal votes” are not added to the mix.

The Justice Department’s request echoed some of the arguments made by the League of Women Voters, specifically arguing that there is no constitutional protection for election vigilantism.

“Just as a citizen’s refusal to pay taxes does not become protected speech because she is trying to express her disapproval of the IRS, taking photos of voter license plates does not become protected speech whenever the photographer wants to express her disapproval of voting at the box,” the Justice Department said.

The Justice Department further bolstered the civic groups’ arguments, saying in a filing Monday that the First Amendment right to assembly does not allow people to assemble for the purpose of coercing voters.

Last week, Attorney General Merrick Garland spokesaying the Justice Department “will not allow voter intimidation” during the midterm elections.



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