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Lawsuit Filed to Stop Vigilante Surveillance of Drop Boxes in Arizona

Suit alleges that drop box surveillance campaign in Yavapai and Maricopa Counties amounts to illegal voter intimidation

Press Release / Last Updated:

Today, Protect Democracy filed a lawsuit on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Arizona in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona in response to organizations and individuals who have conspired to intimidate voters in the 2022 election through “Operation Drop Box.”

The complaint alleges that the Lions of Liberty and the Yavapai County Preparedness Team (both related to the Oath Keepers of Yavapai County)—along with Clean Elections USA, a “grassroots organization committed to election integrity,” and several individuals—have been “actively planning, coordinating, and recruiting for widespread campaigns to surveil and intimidate Arizona voters at ballot drop boxes and baselessly accuse them—either directly or indirectly—of committing voter fraud, and spread false information about legally valid forms of voting.” As a result, individuals in tactical military gear—and likely armed—are staking out drop boxes and taking pictures and videos of voters. Their efforts appear to be inspired by the film 2000 Mules, which has spread thoroughly debunked conspiracy theories about so-called “ballot mules” depositing multiple ballots in drop boxes during the last election.

“No voter should have to confront armed individuals or be baselessly accused of fraud just for exercising their fundamental right to vote,” said Pinny SheoranPresident of the League of Women Voters of Arizona, the plaintiffs. “The actions of the defendants, in this case, are textbook voter intimidation. We’ve talked to voters who have in fact been intimidated into not voting, and it’s not hard to see why.”

“Federal law prohibits exactly this type of harassment and intimidation that defendants are conducting against Arizona voters,” said Caren Short, director of legal and research for the League of Women Voters of the United States. “It was imperative that the League of Women Voters of Arizona step on behalf of voters who deserve a safe, easy, and enjoyable voting experience.”

The League of Women Voters seeks an injunction and a court order declaring the activity a violation of §11(b) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965—which states that “[n]o person, whether acting under color of law or otherwise, shall intimidate, threaten, or coerce, or attempt to intimidate, threaten, or coerce any person for voting or attempting to vote”—and of §1985(3) of the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871—which prohibits conspiracies to suppress voters “by force, intimidation or threat.” 

“What’s happening here in Arizona—groups fueled by conspiracy theories working in concert to threaten and intimidate voters from exercising their constitutional right—is already discouraging lawful voters from attempting to vote,” said Orion Danjuma, Counsel at Protect Democracy. “We are confident that the court will recognize this conduct as clearly unlawful and put an end to this intimidating behavior immediately so Arizonans can drop off their ballot in peace.”

Voter intimidation is nothing new in the United States, which has a long history of state-led and state-sanctioned racial violence meant to disenfranchise Black voters and other voters of color. However, in recent years there has been an increase in the use of intimidation tactics and threats of violence to silence and intimidate political adversaries. Operation Drop Box and false claims of voter fraud are a continuation of the trend of increased political violence which led to the insurrection and violent assault on Congress on January 6, 2021.

For more resources on voter intimidation, visit Protect Democracy’s website, which includes an explainer on voter intimidation in the 2022 midterm election and other legal challenges to voter intimidation.

 

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