Federal judge curtails Arizona drop box monitoring, limiting armed watchers, ending videos of voters

The same judge initially declined to prohibit the elections monitoring group from watching drop boxes.

Updated: November 2, 2022 - 11:48am

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A federal judge in Arizona has rules that election ballot dropbox monitors can no longer take photos or videos of voters, post information online about them or make "false statements" about early voting in the state.

The monitoring is being led by the voting-integrity group Clean Elections USA.

Ahead of the decision Tuesday by Judge Michael Liburdi, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, the group agreed to stop openly carrying weapons or wearing body armor within 250 feet of ballot boxes and to stop interacting with voters within 75 feet.

Liburdi, a Trump appointee, initially allowed the group to monitor drop boxes, in a parallel case.

However, he changed his decision after a voter testified that eight to 10 people filmed him and his wife as they voted last month, according to The New York Times

He said the people filing them said they were "hunting mules" and posted online photos of him and his car.

"It is imperative we balance the defendants’ right to engage in First Amendment-protected activity with the plaintiffs’ right to act without intimidation or harassment," the judge said during the hearing, in the case brought by the League of Women Voters.

The monitoring follows concerns that people – referred to as "mules" – are stuffing drop boxes with ballots.

The original, or parallel, case was filed by Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans and Voto Latino.

Liburdi ruled in that case that prohibiting the monitoring would be a violations of the monitors and their group's First Amendment rights.