WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Friday, a conservative group filed the third lawsuit to challenge Arizona’s 2023 Election Procedures Manual (EPM). This marks the seventh active lawsuit filed by anti-voting groups targeting election administration in the state ahead of the 2024 elections.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Arizona Free Enterprise Club, a nonprofit organization that is also responsible for different lawsuits challenging signature verification and drop box procedures in the state. The new lawsuit alleges that provisions of the 2023 EPM pertaining to drop boxes, voter intimidation and documentary proof of citizenship violate the Arizona Constitution, state law and the U.S. Constitution.
The lawsuit specifically singles out a provision of the EPM intended to protect voters from intimidation which is especially relevant after vigilantes in military tactical gear launched a drop box “monitoring” campaign during the 2022 midterms. Amongst other activities, the EPM prohibits:
- Any activity by a person “with the intent or effect of threatening, harassing, intimidating, or coercing” voters
- Repeatedly watching or monitoring individuals who are delivering ballots to drop boxes,
- Intentionally following individuals delivering ballots to the drop box when such individuals are not within 75 feet of a drop box and
- Speaking to or yelling at an individual, without provocation, who that person knows is returning ballots to the drop box and who is within 75 feet of the drop box.
The plaintiffs argue that this violates the First Amendment and Arizona Constitution by restricting political speech.
Prohibitions on voter intimidation are critical, especially in a state where vigilantes have been empowered by the right to monitor voters. Last year during a hearing challenging the drop box monitoring efforts of a right wing group one voter testified that one of the monitors asked if he “was a mule” because the group was “hunting mules” who were engaging in “ballot harvesting,” after which he testified that he was temporarily followed by one of the drop box monitors as he and his wife drove out of the parking lot. This lawsuit is challenging the safeguards that ensure this type of behavior — which could dissuade voters from voting — is not allowed in the state.
The plaintiff is also challenging part of the EPM that requires political parties to open their primaries to federal-only voters (these are voters who can only vote in federal elections because they have not provided documentary proof of citizenship) who are not registered with a state party by arguing that this provision violates the First Amendment. Additionally, the lawsuit argues that the EPM contains unconstitutionally vague criminal offenses. As a result, the plaintiff asks for the EPM’s challenged rules to be struck down.
Arizona is already a hot spot for election litigation with three lawsuits challenging the EPM filed by anti-voting groups including the Republican National Committee and Republican legislators over the last several weeks. In addition to challenges to the EPM, a right wing legal group founded by Stephen Miller also filed a lawsuit last week challenging Maricopa County’s election practices.