Armed 'camo-clad' 'ballot watchers' reported as more voter intimidation complaints filed in Arizona

Posted at 9:54 AM, Oct 25, 2022

MESA — A voter has filed a voter intimidation complaint accusing "camo clad people" of taking pictures while dropping off an early ballot outside the Maricopa County election headquarters.

The complaint is one of two new voter intimidation complaints the Arizona Secretary of State has received in a few days.

VIDEO: MCSO Sheriff Paul Penzone discusses election security

The reported incident happened on Wednesday, around 2:30 p.m. The complaint filed said that the voter approached the group on the sidewalk asking what group they’re with.

“They asked why I wanted to know, well it’s because it’s a personal attack,” the complaint read. “They basically said they’re taking pictures looking for some fantasy BS on the voting citizenry.”

The Arizona Secretary of State’s office says they have referred a harassing email to the FBI that was sent to Katie Hobbs, the state’s election’s director, and another election worker.

The email that was sent over the weekend said, “I guarantee you, We the People will remove you from office……”

It went on to say that “Remember the French Revolution of 1799???….”

Another complaint filed with the SOS office was on Thursday outside the Mesa drop box location by a 70-year-old voter who said: “There was a group of five or six 20-30 yr old men standing in the parking lot. We put our ballots in the drop box and walked back to our car.”

The complaint went on to say: “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 of 'election security' and I took pictures of them to report them to the DOJ for voter intimidation and harassment.”

A spokesperson with the SOS office said both complaints have been referred to the US Department of Justice.

During a press conference Monday, Sheriff Paul Penzone said having a gun in a public space near a ballot box doesn’t meet the threshold of a criminal penalty.
 But the Justice Department might take up the issue as a possible civil rights violation.

He added there have been 14 election related tips referred to the sheriff’s office, but none have been criminal in nature.

Another incident involved armed individuals with tactical gear outside of the Mesa ballot box Friday evening.

Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office responded at the request of the county.

"The men in tactical gear had already left but deputies measured to make sure ballot watchers weren’t too close," a reporter at the site said.

Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates and County Recorder Stephen Richer released a statement about the two armed individuals seen near the drop box in Mesa Friday night:

"We are deeply concerned about the safety of individuals who are exercising their constitutional right to vote and who are lawfully taking their early ballot to a drop box.

Uninformed vigilantes outside Maricopa County's drop boxes are not increasing election integrity. Instead they are leading to voter intimidation complaints.

Although monitoring and transparency in our elections is critical, voter intimidation is unlawful.

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.

No matter how you choose to vote in Arizona, you should feel safe doing so. We will do everything possible in our roles to protect voters, election workers, and our free and fair elections.”

This comes just days after KNXV-TV reported on a first formal complaint of voter intimidation.

On Wednesday, KNXV encountered a group outside the Maricopa County Election headquarters who were on the sidewalk, watching the ballot drop box.

A man, who wouldn’t give his full name, said he was watching the boxes as part of Clean Elections USA.

According to the website, Clean Elections USA is recruiting people across the country to watch ballot drop boxes in an effort to detect fraud.

“We are looking for true Patriots to take a stand and watch the drop boxes. We want to gather video (and live witness evidence) of any ballot tampering that takes place in real-time,” the site states.

Earlier this week, Steve Bannon hosted a woman by the name of Melody Jennings on a podcast called "Bannon's War Room." Jennings is introduced as the founder of Clean Elections USA.

“We are posting pictures up of these mules, people are getting the word, they are showing up, our people are showing up and gathering around boxes and shutting this stuff down," she said.

She went on to talk about the photos they are taking.

“What these mules don’t understand is just because I put a fuzzy still shot up on Truth Social that doesn’t look like anything, we are geo-tracking them, we got cameras on the backsides of them,” said Jennings.

Jennings has publicly posted on social media that anyone who does not follow the law a drop box is “instantly disassociated with Clean Elections USA.”

It is not illegal to stand on a public sidewalk and record. However, the Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said that behaviors that interfere with a voter’s right to cast their ballot is illegal.

Mail-in ballots can be dropped off at any of the 12 open voting locations, or a United States Postal Service drop box.

Reporting Voter Intimidation and Other Unlawful Conduct

If you witness voter intimidation or other unlawful conduct at the polls, we recommend the following steps:

  • First, inform a poll worker at the voting location, who will work to resolve any problems and call county election officials and/or local law enforcement if needed. However, if you or anyone else is in immediate danger, call 911 first and then inform a poll worker if possible.
  • Document what you see as much as possible, including the who, what, when, and where of the incident. (But keep in mind that taking photos or video is prohibited inside the 75-foot limit of a voting location.)

This article was written by Nicole Grigg for KNXV.