Two advocacy groups in Arizona have filed a lawsuit seeking to stop armed vigilantes who have started to “guard” early voting drop boxes in the state.
The vigilantes, who are part of a far right organization called Clean Elections USA (CEUSA), claim that they are stopping so-called “ballot mules” — individuals they allege are stuffing drop boxes with ballots to help Democrats. There is no proof of this happening anywhere in the U.S., and a documentary created by Dinesh D’Souza alleging otherwise has been thoroughly debunked.
According to the lawsuit, filed jointly by Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans and Voto Latino, the actions taken by CEUSA vigilantes are suppressing voters’ rights.
“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 stated.
The two advocacy groups also noted that, last week on Friday, “two of the drop box watchers were armed and wearing tactical gear.” On Saturday, “armed and masked individuals were gathered near drop boxes” once again.
“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,” the lawsuit said.
In addition to intimidating voters, CEUSA members have also apparently taken pictures of people trying to use the drop boxes, threatening to post their personal information on the internet so that others can harass them.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit claim CEUSA members are violating the federal Voting Rights Act as well as the Ku Klux Klan Act, a law enacted after the Civil War in order to deter voter intimidation in the Reconstruction and civil rights eras. The suit seeks to restrict the vigilantes from continuing to intimidate voters.
In addition to the lawsuit, Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone has said his department will step up security around the drop boxes.
“The more folks there are that are creating problems, the more deputies that you’re going to see on the streets focused on this versus burglaries and crimes against children and robberies and all the stuff we should be doing,” Penzone said. “But we’ll come and we’ll babysit polling sites because people have to misbehave, if that’s what we have to do to protect democracy.”