Armed “vigilantes” intimidate Arizona voters at mail-in ballot drop boxes – Rights History

Armed “vigilantes” intimidate Arizona voters at mail-in ballot drop boxes

The Arizona Secretary of State’s office has received at least three complaints of people being harassed by armed “vigilantes” monitoring ballot drop box locations in the cities of Mesa and Phoenix. All three complaints have been forwarded to the Department of Justice for possible investigation.

“[A group of 8 to 10 people were] filming and photographing my wife and I as we approached the drop box and accusing us of being a mule,” a male complainant told the office. A “mule” is — according to far-right conspiracy theorists — a person who collects and returns completed mail-in ballots en masse.

“They took photographs of our license plate and of us and followed us out of the parking lot,” the man added.

Another incident involved two armed individuals sitting in lawn chairs monitoring a drop-box in Maricopa County. These individuals reportedly left the location after local law enforcement intervened.

Alternately, there have been reports of people carrying cameras, megaphones, and weapons near voter boxes as well as reports of people with cameras pointed at ballot boxes in the state.

The existence of these vigilantes makes sense considering that Arizona became a flashpoint for unproven, right-wing voter fraud conspiracies following now-President Joe Biden’s 2020 Election Night victory in the state. State counties have had their votes recounted and audited with no evidence of fraud.

However, the state’s Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake has repeatedly claimed that there was fraud. She has refused to say whether she will accept the midterm election results if she loses, much like former-President Donald Trump refused to do during the 2020 elections.

“We are deeply concerned about the safety of individuals who are exercising their constitutional right to vote and who are lawfully taking their early ballot to a drop box,” Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates and Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer in a joint statement. “Uninformed vigilantes outside Maricopa County’s drop boxes are not increasing election integrity. Instead, they are leading to voter intimidation complaints.”

“Although monitoring and transparency in our elections is critical, voter intimidation is unlawful. For those who want to be involved in election integrity, become a poll worker or an official observer with your political party. Don’t dress in body armor to intimidate voters as they are legally returning their ballots,” the statement continued.

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