Judge Stops Armed MAGA From Intimidating AZ Voters

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Federal Judge Michael Liburdi, a Trump nominee serving in Arizona, has issued a set of restrictions on the activities of Clean Elections USA, an election conspiracy group that has been involved in monitoring ballot drop boxes. Armed individuals have participated.

The restrictions imposed by Liburdi in response to a lawsuit from the League of Women Voters of Arizona effectively upend the group’s monitoring of drop boxes in Arizona. There remains no real-world evidence of any kind of systematic election fraud perpetrated through the drop boxes, but there are real-world possibilities that a confrontation with armed extremists wearing tactical gear who are — or were — closely watching ballot drop boxes and taking photos of individuals delivering ballots could quickly escalate. There are also concerns about images of people delivering their ballots going up online, which could lead to serious harassment. Just look at what happened to Shaye Moss and her family when Rudy Giuliani and others accused them of participation in non-existent fraud. At one point, an angry group showed up to Moss’s grandmother’s residence, looking for Moss and her mother to make a so-called citizen’s arrest.

In Arizona, Liburdi also previously dealt with a lawsuit over the extremists’ monitoring activities from the Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans and Voto Latino, but he found that there was insufficient evidence of real-world impacts on voters for judicial intervention. That changed here, in part from testimony delivered by someone targeted by those gathered by drop boxes. The man said in court that eight to ten people filmed him and his wife around the time they delivered their ballots, and images of him and his car were later shared online — with Melody Jennings, who leads Clean Elections USA, evidently pointing listeners of Steve Bannon’s podcast to the images. Now, Clean Elections USA and potential allies are evidently prohibited from photographing or videotaping voters, spreading details about voters on the internet, openly carrying weapons amid any monitoring efforts in close proximity to ballot boxes, and distributing false information online about the electoral process in Arizona.

Liburdi characterized sharing such falsities as a form of intimidation. “This does not prohibit Ms. Jennings from correctly stating what the law is,” Liburdi said. “I just have a problem with her stating it incorrectly in a way that is intimidating or coercive to voting behavior.” The Justice Department itself got directly involved in this case with what is known as a statement of interest filed in court that outlined the federal position. The filing questioned the legality of the monitoring efforts in light of the federal Voting Rights Act. Efforts by Jennings and her organization are connected to a far-right propaganda film called “2000 Mules,” which claimed that thousands of so-called mules carried fraudulent ballots to drop boxes around the country. True the Vote, another election conspiracy organization involved in the film, eventually claimed to both Arizona state Attorney General’s office investigators and local FBI personnel they’d provided relevant evidence for these claims to the other. Surprise! Neither actually got anything.