Complaints Detail All the Disturbing Ways ‘Vigilantes’ Are Menacing Arizona Voters

Arizona authorities have received two new complaints of voter intimidation in recent days as groups of self-appointed “election security” observers—some of them armed, many wearing tactical gear—continue to stake out ballot drop boxes.The fresh allegations make three in total that have been formally filed, and follow a case the Arizona Secretary of State’s office referred

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Arizona authorities have received two new complaints of voter intimidation in recent days as groups of self-appointed “election security” observers—some of them armed, many wearing tactical gear—continue to stake out ballot drop boxes.

The fresh allegations make three in total that have been formally filed, and follow a case the Arizona Secretary of State’s office referred last week to the Department of Justice. In that incident, a voter accused a clutch of people “hanging out near the ballot dropbox” of filming and photographing him, his wife, and their car’s license plate as they cast their ballots at the Mesa Juvenile Court on Oct. 17.

They were then accused of being “mules,” a reference to far-right agitator Dinesh D’Souza’s thoroughly debunked film 2,000 Mules, which falsely claimed Democratic operatives stuffed voting drop boxes with phony votes during the 2020 presidential election.

“Uninformed vigilantes outside Maricopa County’s drop boxes are not increasing election integrity,” Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates and County Recorder Stephen Richer said in a joint statement over the weekend, adding, “For those who want to be involved in election integrity, become a poll worker or an official observer with your political party. Don’t dress in body armor to intimidate voters as they are legally returning their ballots.”

Early voting in the 2022 midterm elections began Oct. 12 in Arizona, with more than three million residents eligible. The ballots can be mailed in or dropped off at one of the secure drop boxes located across the state. Anyone other than voters and credentialed government or party officials must stay at least 75 feet away, by Arizona law.

Ballot drop boxes were first introduced in 2020 by some 40 U.S. states, helping people vote safely during the height of the COVID pandemic. There were no reported cases of fraud, vandalism, or anything else that could have swung the elections, according to an Associated Press survey of Democratic and Republican state election officials.

The first of the latest reported incidents occurred around 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 19, when an early voter was harassed by unknown people wearing camouflage. The observers were watching a drop box at the Mesa Juvenile Court, according to documents shared with The Daily Beast by Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs’ office. (The names of the complainants were redacted prior to receipt.)

“Camo clad people taking pictures of me, my license plate as I dropped our mail in ballots in the box,” the complaint states. “When I approached them asking names, [what] group they’re with, they wouldn’t give anything. They asked why I wanted to know, well it’s because it’s a personal attack. They basically said they’re taking pictures looking for some fantasy BS on the voting citizenry.”

“Inside [the] record office the ladies said it was worse last year when they all had guns!!” the complaint continues. “Some workers had quit due [to] these conspiracy idiots. I don’t appreciate the harassment. I’m curious if they’re staying 75 ft away too[.]”

Arizona Secretary of State

The second new incident happened at approximately 12:30 p.m. on Oct. 20, also at the Mesa Juvenile Court, according to the documents provided by Hobbs’ office.

“My wife and I (70 yrs old) parked our car to each individually drop our ballots in the drop boxes located outside the Juvenile Court, there was a group of 5 or 6 20-30 yr old men standing in the parking lot,” the complaint reads. “We put our ballots in the drop box and walked back to our car. As we were getting up to our car, two individuals took pictures of our license plate and our car. I got out and asked what they were doing. They claimed they were taking pictures for ‘election security’ and I took pictures of them to report them to the DOJ for voter intimation and harassments [sic]. As we were pulling out, the [sic] continued to film my wife, myself and our car.”

On Friday evening, things allegedly escalated.

That’s when cops removed “two armed individuals dressed in tactical gear” who were loitering around one of Maricopa’s two 24-hour drop boxes, Maricopa County authorities said.

The next day, four people—two of whom were reportedly armed with concealed handguns—were seen watching a drop box in Mesa, according to 3TV/CBS 5/Arizona’s Family.

A woman wearing a nun’s costume filmed the group and posted the video to social media. She is not an actual nun, but told The Daily Beast she plans on wearing the costume for Halloween. The woman, who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation from the far-right, said she took an Uber to Mesa from her home in the Phoenix suburbs so she could document what she had heard was happening at one of their drop boxes.

She arrived to find three women and a man staking out the box. The man and two of the women had their faces covered by neck gaiters. The man and one of the masked women were armed, the woman said.

“They didn’t have their long guns with them… It looked like they had .40 calibers,” she recalled.

The drop box watchers had placed an American flag over the rear license plate of one of their cars, which the “nun” removed—and the watchers became upset. A young police officer on the scene began “chastising” the 53-year-old woman, who said she argued back, “Sweetheart, don’t talk to me like that. I’ll put you over my knee.”

The woman, who works as a dog sitter and counts at least half her clients as Trump supporters, said the poll watchers were angry that the police did not order her to leave.

“They were so mad that the police did not make me move my chair that was right next to their chairs,” she said. “They were really, really mad. And so they took their guns and went home.”

The intimidation campaign has not just affected voters. Reporter Nicole Grigg, who has been covering the drop box situation for local affiliate ABC15, said she has received numerous death threats over her dispatches.

“So if I just happened to be standing there and put a bullet in the head of that scum reporter and then claimed it was self-defense because that scum reporter was attacking a fellow patriot I would be justified?” one email Grigg got reportedly read.

Clean Elections USA, an election-denying organization founded by minister Melody Jennings, who has appeared on former Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s webcast, boasted of training and deploying volunteers in 18 states, including Arizona. Last week, a ballot watcher in Maricopa County said he was there representing the group, according to ABC 15.

However, Jennings, who goes by “TrumperMel” online, told The Daily Beast on Thursday that a ballot watcher referred to law enforcement by Katie Hobbs’ office was “not associated with Clean Elections USA in any way.”

Jennings did not respond to a follow-up request for comment on Monday.

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