Court Battles

Judge restricts activities of group monitoring Arizona ballot drop boxes

A federal judge has issued a temporary restraining order to restrict certain activities of a group that is monitoring ballot drop boxes in Arizona. 

U.S. District Judge Michael Liburdi ruled on Tuesday that the organization, Clean Elections USA, cannot openly carry firearms or visibly wear body armor within 250 feet of a ballot drop box, intentionally enter within 75 feet of a drop box or the entrance to where a drop box is located, or take photos or record people within 75 feet of a drop box. 

The group has said that they wish to monitor drop boxes for any illegal voting in Maricopa County, which includes the city of Phoenix. 

Liburdi had declined to block the group from monitoring the drop boxes Friday, ruling that doing so would infringe on their “core constitutional rights.” The Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans, an organization that works to educate and mobilize senior citizens to be politically active, argued that allowing Clean Elections USA to monitor the boxes would intimidate voters. 

Liburdi denied the alliance’s request for a preliminary injunction to stop the monitoring, but he issued a series of restrictions on Clean Elections USA’s activities in his order Tuesday. 

Members of Clean Elections USA will also not be allowed to speak to or yell at anyone who they know is returning ballots to a drop box and within 75 feet of the drop box, unless the members are spoken to or yelled at first. 

The two organizations had agreed to certain restrictions, like those concerning firearms and intentionally coming within 75 feet of the entrance to a building where a drop box is located, but Liburdi’s order went further. 

Melody Jennings formed Clean Elections USA after viewing “2000 Mules,” a film created by conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza that claimed to show widespread voter fraud happening during the 2020 presidential election. Multiple audits of elections throughout the country in 2020, including in Arizona, found no evidence of widespread fraud. 

Liburdi also ruled that Jennings must post on her Truth Social page a message clarifying past statements on the legality of a person dropping multiple ballots in a drop box. 

She must post that “any past statement that it is always illegal to deposit multiple ballots in a ballot drop box is incomplete; a family member, household member, or caregiver can legally do so” on the page and leave it there until the end of voting on Election Day next week. 

The temporary restraining order will be in effect for 14 days. 

The New York Times reported that a lawyer for Clean Elections USA said in court that he would likely appeal the ruling, arguing certain restrictions like those on taking photos violate free speech.

Tags Arizona elections ballot drop boxes Clean Elections USA election monitoring maricopa county
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