UPDATE: First Amendment Victory for Ballot Box Watchers in Arizona

As RedState previously reported, on Monday, a federal lawsuit was filed in Arizona to prevent Clean Elections USA group members from watching ballot boxes. U.S. District Court Judge Michael Liburdi ruled on Friday, refusing to grant the plaintiff’s request for an injunction to bar observers from watching the ballot boxes, citing constitutional violations. Liburdi held that the First Amendment rights of individuals to speak and gather do not extend to “true threats.” The judge said that no evidence was provided to prove that Melody Jennings, founder of Clean Elections USA, or its members had done anything to reach a level considered to be threatening, or otherwise illegal.

The case remains open, while one plaintiff group, Voto Latino, was removed. The remaining plaintiff, Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans could try again to make its argument for an injunction against the ballot box watchdogs. AARA said they would “seek immediate appellate review and emergency relief.”

In Liburdi’s ruling, he states that a Dinesh D’Souza movie, 2000 Mules, was the inspiration for Jennings’ group to organize in order to observe the ballot drop boxes.

Liburdi noted that the record reflected that Jennings had instructed her group to follow the laws, and also to not engage with or speak to voters near the ballot boxes. Liburdi said,

“Ms. Jennings’ social media posts demonstrate that she believes the presence of her volunteers alone would convey messages to these supposed ‘ballot mules,’ ” those who she alleges are violating state laws by depositing more ballots into drop boxes than are legally allowed. “The message is that persons who attempt to break Arizona’s anti-ballot harvesting law will be exposed.”

The judge continued by stating that Jenning’s social media posts could not be interpreted as “true threats,” saying,

“Even if these statements are mere window dressing, a reasonable listener could not interpret Ms. Jennings’ social media pronouncement that alleged ‘mules’ will ‘shrink back into the darkness’ following her drop box initiative as true threats,”

Liburdi pointed out that Jennings’ stated objective is to deter illegal voting and illegal ballot harvesting, saying there is no evidence showing that Clean Elections USA was trying to deter legal voting.

The Sheriff’s Department is providing security around two Maricopa County ballot boxes after reports of people legally carrying firearms were made. Republican Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, has told the public to immediately report any intimidation to police and file a complaint with his office. In the past week, the Arizona Secretary of State has referred six complaints to the AZ AG’s office and the US Department of Justice. The US Attorney General’s office in Arizona has vowed to prosecute any violations of voters’ rights.

Marc Elias, founder of Democracy Docket, whose law group represents the plaintiff appeared on MSNBC, again, on Friday.

Elias’ law group has already filed an appeal to the US 9th Circuit District Court.

 

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