The Arizona Chapter of the League of Women Voters filed a lawsuit in federal court on Tuesday evening, targeting groups and individuals they believe are conspiring to intimidate Arizona voters through a coordinated effort known as “Operation Drop Box”.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the League in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona by a group known as Protect Democracy. This is the second recent lawsuit filed in federal court alleging the conduct of individuals — some of whom are armed — who staked and filmed voters at the polls in Arizona.
The lawsuit alleges the conduct violates the Voting Rights Act and another federal law that prohibits conspiracies to intimidate voters. He is seeking a court order restraining the defendants from “further intimidating voters or violating the law”.
In the lawsuit, the League argues that the conduct of people who guarded drop boxes in Yavapai and Maricopa counties is part of a “growing program of voter intimidation and harassment in Arizona” that undermines the right of voters to vote “freely”. intimidation, threats or coercion.
The Voting Rights Organization alleges that the Lions of Liberty LLC and the Yavapai County Prep Squad — two groups the League says are linked to the Yavapai County Oath Keepers — as well as a known group under the name Clean Elections USA, have “actively planned, coordinated and recruited for large-scale campaigns to monitor and intimidate Arizona voters at the polls and baselessly accuse them – directly or indirectly – of committing electoral fraud and spreading false information about legally valid forms of voting.
A Yavapai County Preparedness Team official declined to comment on the lawsuit when contacted by CNN on Tuesday. A lawyer for Clean Elections USA did not immediately respond to CNN’s request. CNN also contacted Lions of Liberty through the group’s website.
The lawsuit notes that the conduct of the vigilantes – some of whom wore masks and tactical gear – appears to be inspired by the movie demystified known as the “2000 mules,” who advanced the right-wing conspiracy theory that so-called “voting mules” illegally cast multiple ballots into ballot boxes during the last election. The lawsuit notes that the film “has been outright discredited by experts” and includes “images of innocent voters voting legally” in order to “peddle a dangerous conspiracy theory.”
The people staking the ballot boxes, the League argued, are also spreading the lie that Arizonans are breaking the law every time they cast a ballot for another person — when in fact state law allows household members, caregivers as well as election officials to assist voters by dropping off their ballots.
The lawsuit alleges that Lions of Liberty and the Yavapai County Readiness Team are engaged in “a widespread campaign to monitor all drop boxes in Yavapai County, videotape voters, and then report to law enforcement all voters who cast multiple ballots”. The program involves having “patriots” take turns monitoring all drop boxes in the county and taking pictures of any voter who drops more than one ballot, along with pictures of their car and plates registration, then report their findings to the Yavapai County Sheriff.
The League says Clean Elections USA and its founder Melody Jennings organized a statewide campaign known as the “Dropbox Initiative 2022” to surveil and harass voters – a ploy designed to “baselessly accuse voters to be ‘mules’ and to ‘dox’ them by publicly revealing their personal information online,” the lawsuit said.
Earlier this week, an association of retirees and an organization of Latino voters sought a temporary restraining order against Clean Elections USA, and its founder, Melody Jennings, alleging that they are coordinating a campaign of voter intimidation by Arizona.
U.S. District Judge Michael Liburdi told a hearing on Wednesday he hoped to issue his decision in the case by Friday, but said he may need the weekend to complete it.
The lawsuit alleged that Clean Elections USA violated federal law with incidents near ballot box locations in Arizona and highlighted three complaints that were submitted by voters to state election officials.
The Arizona Secretary of State referred these and several similar complaints of intimidation to the US Department of Justice.
The defendants’ attorney, Veronica Lucero, pushed back against the allegations on Wednesday, telling the judge there was no direct evidence linking her clients to conduct that was reported to Arizona election officials as intimidating.
But plaintiffs’ attorneys presented several witnesses who said they felt intimidated by the conduct of people – some of whom were armed – at polls across Arizona.
The two groups, Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans and Voto Latino, are seeking the temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction that would restrain the defendants “from congregating within sight of the drop boxes; tracking, photographing or otherwise recording voters or potential voters, persons assisting voters or potential voters, or their vehicles at or around a drop box; and to train, organize or direct others to do these activities.
This story was updated with additional information on Wednesday.