Far right groups intimidate and harass early voters in Arizona

As we wrote about last month, far right extremist groups are plotting to intimidate voters dropping off their ballots under the guise of “election monitoring.”

Voters in Arizona had their first run-in this week with these “poll watchers,” who were filmed by local news recording video of residents dropping off their ballots at drop boxes in Maricopa County. The poll watchers would only identify themselves as members of a group called Clean Elections USA. “While there are many who say the 2020 election was the most secure in American history,” the organization’s website (archived link) states, “we know this is far from the truth.”

Their homepage goes on to cite Dinesh D’Souza’s debunked conspiracy film “2000 Mules” as evidence of widespread fraud in U.S. elections:

According to research conducted by True the Vote, “Mules” were paid to go from drop box to drop box, often driving from one county to the next, to stuff what we can only assume were fraudulent mail-in ballots. 2000 Mules clearly illustrated that there was a coordinated effort to stuff ballot box in 2020. Our immediate and urgent mission is to prevent this from happening in 2022. We are asking every patriotic American citizen to join us as we organize to safeguard our elections with a legal presence at every ballot box in each and every state that has them.

When pressed on why they are observing and recording ballot boxes, two members of Clean Elections USA said they were just “getting some Vitamin D” and couldn’t answer any questions.

At least one voter has been accosted by these poll watchers, according to a complaint filed with the Arizona secretary of state. The unnamed voter reported that individuals accused them of “being a mule” and took photographs of their license plate while they were returning their ballots in Mesa, Arizona, on Monday.

“There’s a group of people hanging out near the ballot drop box filming and photographing my wife and I as we approached the drop box and accusing us of being a mule. They took a photographs [sic] of our license plate and of us and then followed us out the parking lot in one of their cars continuing to film,” the voter wrote in the complaint.

Arizona’s Secretary of State’s office forwarded the complaint to the Justice Department.

Experts anticipate more confrontations with voters before the election, in part due to Donald Trump’s amplification of voting fraud claims. The former president has shared numerous posts on Truth Social from Clean Elections USA founder Melody Jennings, who also relies on Reddit’s AskThe_Donald to spread her claims. In one such post, Jennings shared a blurry image of a man at a drop box. “This guy drove in backwards to avoid plate detection. Got out showing his back. Pulled ballots out of his shirt. I need people there tonight to help my people,” Jennings wrote, without providing any evidence.

Trump shared half a dozen of her posts, including a video of her appearance on Steve Bannon’s “War Room” podcast where she outlined what her group was doing around the upcoming elections.

“We’ve got people ready to go in 18 states to go out in shifts and guard these boxes,” Jennings told Trump’s former senior adviser. “We’ve got people out there, on the ground and doing the work.”

These poll watchers haven’t limited themselves to harassing voters; according to Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates, they’ve also harassed poll workers as they come and go at their job.

“This is the sort of thing that’s been normalized, and it has to stop. That’s why we’re encouraging people who are passionate about the election to get involved. They don’t have to stand outside taking pictures harassing people,” Gates said.