The Justice Department stepped in to an ongoing Arizona election lawsuit Monday, supporting a claim by the League of Women Voters of Arizona that monitoring ballot drop boxes can amount to illegal voter intimidation. The department said such “vigilante ballot security measures,” including filming voters at drop boxes, probably violates the federal Voting Rights Act, reports the Washington Post. “When private citizens form ‘ballot security forces’ and attempt to take over the State’s legitimate role of overseeing and policing elections, the risk of voter intimidation — and violating federal law — is significant,” the department said in a “statement of interest” filed in the case. The League of Women Voters alleged that several organizations planned “widespread campaigns to surveil and intimidate Arizona voters at ballot drop boxes and baselessly accuse them” of voter fraud.
The drop boxes, intended to provide a secure, convenient place to submit ballots, have become a symbol of mistrust in elections among many supporters of former president Trump. Trump and his allies nationally and in Arizona have urged supporters to monitor outdoor drop boxes, an outgrowth of the discredited film “2000 Mules” that claims drop boxes were stuffed with fraudulent ballots during the 2020 election. News of the Justice Department filing with its strong language about voter intimidation was welcomed by voting rights advocates and Arizona officials who have been increasingly alarmed by outside groups congregating around drop boxes and recording videos of voters and their vehicles. “To have folks standing outside of drop boxes, armed in tactical gear, with body armor, that is unprecedented,” said Bill Gates, the chair of the Republican-led Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.