A federal court ruled that an Arizona activist group can monitor ballot drop boxes in the state ahead of the 2022 elections.
In a decision Friday, the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona ruled that a voter activist group called Clean Elections USA could monitor a pair of drop boxes in Maricopa County. Two liberal activist groups, the Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans and Voto Latino, sued to stop the group from monitoring the drop boxes, claiming that it was violating the Voting Rights Act and the Ku Klux Klan Act.
The two plaintiffs first argued section 11(b) of the Voting Rights Act, which states that no 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.” But the plaintiffs failed to provide evidence that Clean Elections USA actually presented a threat.
“Defendants have not made any statements threatening to commit acts of unlawful violence to a particular individual or group of individuals,” Judge Michael T. Liburdi wrote.
He cited statements made in court and on social media by Clean Elections USA founder Melody Jennings, in which she repeatedly told her volunteers to follow the law and remain outside the mandatory 75-foot radius of the drop box, and not to interact with alleged “ballot mules” at the drop boxes.
“Even if these statements are mere window dressing, a reasonable listener could not interpret Ms. Jennings’ social media pronouncements that alleged ‘mules’ will ‘shrink back into the darkness’ following her drop box initiative as true threats,” Liburdi concluded, adding later in the ruling that the Court could not “craft a meaningful form of injunctive relief that does not violate Defendants’ First Amendment rights and those of the drop box observers.”
Furthermore, “Defendants’ conduct does not fall into any traditionally recognized category of voter intimidation,” Liburdi added. “There is no evidence here that the voters using the outdoor drop boxes are primarily minorities or that they have historically been victims of targeted violence. Taken together, the Court cannot conclude that Defendants’ conduct constitutes a true threat.”
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