Yavapai County groups face uncertain future surrounding ballot box monitoring
PRESCOTT, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - Two Yavapai County organizations are facing potential legal punishment for plans to monitor ballot drop boxes in the weeks leading up to the election.
The nonprofit Protect Democracy sent a letter to the Yavapai County Preparedness Team and the conservative group Lions of Liberty earlier this week, telling them to cease any ballot box monitoring. As a result, Operation: Drop Box, which was scheduled to start this past Wednesday, is currently on hold.
“You can commit illegal voter intimidation even if you don’t intend to,” Protect Democracy voting rights attorney Jared Davidson said. Davidson sees this illegal voter intimidation happening if Operation: Drop Box does go into effect in Yavapai County. That’s why he sent the letter demanding they cease any plans to engage in illegal voter intimidation. “It’s an off-ramp for them, quite frankly,” Davidson said. “But that message is clear: if you engage in unlawful voter intimidation, you’re going to face legal consequences.”
An older section of the Lions of Liberty website about Operation: Drop Box (that Lions of Liberty board member Luke Cilano says was taken down after the letter from Protect Democracy) told volunteers that if they see someone putting more ballots in than their own, take a picture of them, their car, and their license plate.
The Lions of Liberty website also says they’ll notify Sheriff David Rhodes, who is already aware of what they’re doing and will do what he can. “What we’re doing is we’re literally just sitting in our cars watching the box,” Cilano said. “And looking for something ridiculously nefarious.”
Cilano says that while Operation: Drop Box never officially got underway, volunteers have still been monitoring the ballot boxes on their own, and he doesn’t see anything wrong with that. “It’s absolutely ridiculous that there can even be a conversation on intimidation when we’re nowhere near the box,” he said. “In most cases, people don’t even know we’re there.”
But Davidson begs to differ. “The threat of baselessly being accused of a crime, and having my good name dragged through the mud and possibly being questioned by police would certainly chill my activity,” he said. “And it would make me think twice about how I wanted to conduct my activities.”
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