A federal judge has issued a temporary restraining order on a far right organization that is harassing voters at ballot drop box locations in Maricopa County, Arizona.
The order issued by Judge Michael Liburdi, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, restricts Clean Elections USA (CEUSA) from openly carrying firearms near early voting locations. It also forbids the group and its members from taking photographs or videos of voters using drop boxes, from posting information about voters on the internet, and from continuing to spread lies about election laws.
The lawsuit was brought forward by the League of Women Voters, who described CEUSA’s actions in court filings as being “time-tested methods of voter intimidation.”
During a hearing on Tuesday prior to Liburdi’s ruling, CEUSA had agreed to stop openly carrying guns and wearing tactical gear near the locations and to stop harassing voters within 75 feet of drop boxes. But the group did not agree to stop photographing or filming voters or to stop posting their personal information online.
In addition to restricting these actions, Liburdi’s order requires CEUSA’s founder, Melody Jennings, to publish factual information about ballot drop boxes on her website and social media channels — including that “it is not always illegal to deposit multiple ballots in a ballot drop box” and that Arizona law allows people to drop off “the ballot of a family member, household member, or person for whom you are the caregiver.” Jennings and members of CEUSA have repeatedly asserted otherwise to justify harassing voters.
The group claims that intimidation is necessary to deter the depositing of ballots from so-called mules — individuals they falsely allege are stuffing drop boxes with illegal ballots in order to help Democratic candidates in statewide races. Notably, there is no proof of such actions anywhere in the U.S., and “2,000 Mules,” a pseudo-documentary film by Dinesh D’Souza that asserts that ballot stuffing took place in the 2020 presidential election, has been thoroughly debunked.
A lawyer representing CEUSA said that the group plans to appeal the ruling, claiming it violates their First Amendment right to free speech. As of Wednesday morning, Jennings has not complied with the judge’s order to publish factual information about voting on social media.
Though an appeal may be imminent, the ruling was lauded by the League of Women Voters, who said Liburdi’s decision would help voters to cast their ballots without the threat of intimidation.
“Today’s U.S. District Court decision is a victory for the voters of Arizona who have the right to cast their ballots free from intimidation, threats, or coercion,” said Pinny Sheoran, president of the League of Women Voters of Arizona. “The League of Women Voters of Arizona is proud to have challenged activities that are presently interfering with voters’ right to cast a ballot safely and without fear, and we encourage voters to continue using drop boxes to vote.”
The ruling on Tuesday comes just after a separate challenge that sought the same protections from CEUSA’s intimidation failed. That lawsuit, brought forward by Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans and Voto Latino, is currently being appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.