Voting Rights Group Settles Arizona Voter Intimidation Lawsuit
WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Sunday, May 21, the League of Women Voters (LWV) of Arizona announced a settlement agreement in a lawsuit challenging drop box monitoring practices by Melody Jennings and her organization (then known as Clean Elections USA) during the 2022 midterm elections.
In the lead-up to Election Day in Arizona, there were several reports of alleged voter intimidation by vigilantes, who were in some instances armed, monitoring drop boxes, following and photographing voters. Two lawsuits — one by the League of Women Voters of Arizona and one by the Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans and Voto Latino — were filed against Clean Elections USA (a right-wing group behind vigilante drop box monitoring in Arizona), its founder and others challenging a drop box “monitoring” scheme during the 2022 midterm elections.
For instance, the LWV lawsuit details a situation wherein a “voter reported that the individuals accused him of being a ‘mule,’ photographed his license plate, and then followed him out of the parking lot while continuing to film.” LWV also points to an Oct. 21 instance where “two armed individuals dressed in tactical gear, and who apparently were also carrying magazine clips, were onsite at a ballot box in Mesa.”
The lawsuits allege that this behavior violates the Voting Rights Act and the Ku Klux Klan Act, two laws that the plaintiffs argue “prevent the very kinds of vigilante-led voter intimidation Defendants are now deploying.”
The cases were consolidated in October 2022 and a judge granted the LWV plaintiffs request for a temporary restraining order on Nov 1, 2022, which:
- Prevented the defendants from training, organizing, encouraging or direct others to monitor drop boxes;
- Prohibited the defendants from going within 75 feet of drop boxes or the entrance where a drop box is located and, unless a voter talks to them first, speaking or yelling at a voter;
- Prohibited the defendants from openly carrying firearms or wearing body armor within 250 feet of a drop box;
- Required Melody Jennings, the founder of Clean Elections USA, to post on her organization’s website and her Truth Social page that it is not always illegal to deposit multiple ballots in a drop box. She was also required to post a copy of the relevant laws and a link to the judge’s written order.
In many ways, the vigilante drop box monitoring in Arizona represents how toxic Republican-backed misinformation and rhetoric about mail-in voting and drop boxes specifically has become. While the conditions of the agreement are confidential, the end of this lawsuit is a victory for voters. According to LWV of Arizona, “Ms. Jennings agreed to publicly condemn intimidation of any kind in connection with the exercise of the right to vote.”
Read the League of Women Voters’ Press Release here.