Voter Intimidation at Arizona Drop Boxes
In Mesa, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix, Maricopa County sheriff deputies responded to a call of two men, wearing tactical gear and armed, at an election drop box ahead of the 2022 election.
The Department of Justice had an incident referred to them by the Arizona secretary of state’s office, in which voters at a drop box were filmed and photographed, with some being followed out of the parking lot.
Two days later, another incident occurred at the Maricopa County election headquarters in Mesa, where “camo clad people” took photographs of a voter and their vehicle’s license plate.
As of October 24, six complaints of voter intimidation had been reported to law enforcement by Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs. Additionally, two groups are facing potential legal punishment for their plans to surveil drop boxes in Yavapai County, as this continues to be an issue throughout Arizona.
In a statement after these events, Hobbs said, “voter harassment may include gathering around ballot drop boxes questioning voters, brandishing weapons, taking pictures of people voting and following or chasing voters who are attempting to drop off their ballots, and it can all be considered voter intimidation.”
As of November 1st, 2022, a Trump-appointed federal judge in Arizona has ruled that the group may not take photos or videos of voters, openly carry firearms near ballot boxes, or post information about voters online.
However, those who have engaged in these efforts have not been without support. In May, at an event hosted by True the Vote, an Arizona state Senator Kelley Townsend encouraged residents to act in response to false claims of election fraud. “I have been so pleased to hear of all you vigilantes out there that want to camp out at these drop boxes, right? So do it. Do it,” she told the crowd.
Townsend joins a list of other Arizona politicians who have been quick to defend those monitoring drop boxes. On October 20, Republican nominee for Arizona secretary of state Mark Finchem tweeted, “WATCH ALL DROP BOXES. PERIOD. SAVE THE REPUBLIC.”
These incidents and continued support from public figures have led to an increase in security measures. On October 24, Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone told reporters that he has had to allocate “considerable” resources in response to these incidents and to protect election sites, “just to give people confidence that they can cast a vote safely. And that is absurd.”
In a joint statement on October 22, Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer and Maricopa County Board Chair Bill Gates, both Republicans, said, “uninformed vigilantes outside Maricopa County’s drop boxes are not increasing election integrity. Instead they are leading to voter intimidation complaints.”