LWV of Arizona filed a federal lawsuit challenging voter intimidation by defendants Lions of Liberty and Clean Elections USA under the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The defendants announced plans to “monitor” voters using ballot drop boxes, which included filming and photography of voters by armed volunteers. The defendants alleged these activities were needed to prevent election fraud.
The League of Women Voters of Arizona filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona against defendants Lions of Liberty, LLC, the Yavapai County Preparedness Team, Clean Election USA, and several individual plaintiffs, asserting violations of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) and the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 (KKK Act).
Prior to the lawsuit, defendants Lions of Liberty and the Yavapai County Preparedness Team announced plans to have volunteers conduct ballot drop box “monitoring” in Yavapai County and take pictures of voters and their license plates when they dropped off more than one ballot. The defendants stated this was a necessary measure to prevent election fraud by “ballot mules,” who, according to discredited conspiracy theories, stuffed ballot drop boxes in Arizona with thousands of illegitimate ballots during the 2020 election. Arizona law explicitly allows certain eligible relatives and members of the voter’s household to return absentee ballots on their behalf. The defendants, who possessed ties to the Oath Keepers, also stated that volunteers could be armed when conducting these activities. The Oath Keepers are a far-right group who helped storm the Capitol during the January 6 Insurrection.
Defendant Clean Elections USA, headed by co-defendant Melody Jennings, also announced plans to recruit volunteers to monitor ballot drop boxes and photograph voters dropping off multiple ballots, as well as their license plates. In several posts on Truth Social leading up to the election, defendants stated these operations were needed to protect elections from ballot “mules” allegedly stuffing ballot drop boxes in Maricopa County. In accordance with these plans, Clean Elections USA volunteers began photographing and filming voters using ballot drop boxes, and in some cases, posted photos of voters and their license plates on Truth Social, implying they were “mules.” Several of these volunteers were armed and wore body armor.
In response, the League moved for a temporary restraining order banning the defendants from conducting any ballot drop box surveillance until the election was over and an award of damages to compensate for the expenses it incurred responding to the planned voter intimidation.
On October 31, 2022, the court held an initial hearing. Defendants Lions of Liberty and Yavapai Preparedness Team, agreed to stop all ballot drop box surveillance and were dismissed from the case, leaving Clean Elections USA and Melody Jennings as the remaining defendants.
On November 1, 2022, after hearing testimony from LWV Arizona and several voters who were intimidated or deterred from voting via ballot drop box due to defendants’ activities, the court granted the League’s motion for a Temporary Restraining Order, ordering defendant Clean Elections USA to post the full text of the Arizona statute allowing voters to return multiple absentee ballots for eligible persons, banning volunteers monitoring drop boxes from coming within 75 feet of a ballot drop box or carrying firearms or wearing body armor within 250 feet of a ballot drop box, among other requirements.
The League is represented in this litigation by the Protect Democracy Project and Osborn Maledon P.A.
LWV Arizona files lawsuit
The League of Women Voters of Arizona files a lawsuit in federal court asserting plans by the defendants to conduct surveillance of voters using ballot drop boxes, with the aid of armed persons in some cases, violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Ku Klux Klan Act.
Defendants Lions of Liberty and Yavapai County Preparedness Team commit to ending ballot drop box surveillance
At an initial hearing, defendants Lions of Liberty and the Yavapai County Preparedness Team commit to ending all ballot drop box monitoring and are dismissed from the case. The court also consolidated the case with another case brought by the Arizona Alliance of Retired Americans.
Court issues order barring defendants from conducting ballot drop box monitoring
After a hearing in which several voters testified about the effect of the defendants’ actions on their ability to use ballot drop boxes, the court issues a Temporary Restraining Order which bars defendants from confronting and doxing voters, as well as carrying weapons and body armor near drop boxes.
Defendants file motion to dismiss
The defendants file a Motion to Dismiss the plaintiffs’ complaint, arguing that the case was moot because the election was over and Clean Elections USA’s website was no longer active. The motion further asserts that plaintiffs failed to allege violations of the KKK Act and VRA, have no standing, and that their requested injunction would violate the First Amendment.
LWV Arizona files opposition to motion to dismiss
LWV Arizona files its opposition to the motion to dismiss, asserting the case is not moot due to the outstanding damages claim and defendants' continuing ability to commit further voter intimidation. The opposition also asserts the League pled sufficient claims under the Voting Rights and Ku Klux Klan Acts and that the First Amendment did not protect defendants' acts of voter intimidation.