A federal judge ordered armed members of a group monitoring ballot drop boxes in Arizona to stay at least 250 feet from the locations of ballot drop boxes, after complaints that people wearing masks and carrying guns were intimidating voters. U.S. District Judge Michael Liburdi said members of Clean Elections USA and anyone associated with it are barred from filming or following anyone within 75 feet of a ballot drop box or the building that houses one, the Associated Press reports. They also cannot speak to or yell at individuals within that perimeter unless spoken to first. The restraining order was requested by the League of Women Voters of Arizona after Clean Elections USA encouraged people to watch ballot boxes in Maricopa County. “It is paramount that we balance the rights of the defendant to engage in their constitutionally protected First Amendment activity with the interest in the plaintiffs and in voters casting a vote free of harassment and intimidation,” Liburdi said. A second set of defendants, known as the Lions of Liberty and the Yavapai County Preparedness team, were dismissed from the case after they pledged to stand down on their operations. Sheriff's deputies have been providing security around the two outdoor drop boxes in Maricopa County after a pair of people carrying guns and wearing bulletproof vests showed up at a box in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa. The U.S Attorney's office in Arizona has vowed to prosecute any violations of federal law but said local police were at the front line in efforts to ensure voters are able to exercise their right to vote free of intimidation.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich has called on voters to report any intimidation to the police. Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said her office received six cases of potential voter intimidation, as well as a threatening email sent to the state elections director. The temporary order issued by Liburdi will be in effect for two weeks, and the 250-foot perimeter around drop boxes also applies to group members wearing body armor. On Friday, the judge said another group, the Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans, failed to make its argument against Clean Elections USA. Liburdi concluded that “while this case certainly presents serious questions, the Court cannot craft an injunction without violating the First Amendment.” The U.S. Justice Department said it would join the case, due to the actions that raised concerns about voter intimidation.