Concern over armed ‘vigilantes’ near Arizona ballot drop box

Elections 2022

(NewsNation) — Two armed individuals described as “vigilantes” were discovered outside a ballot drop box in Maricopa County, Arizona, on Friday evening. Arizona has been identified as one of the top states for threats against poll workers as people across the country are turning out to monitor elections for suspected fraud.

The Hill reports the individuals left the area after law enforcement responded. Arizona law prohibits carrying a weapon within 75 feet of a polling place. Early voting began in Arizona on Oct. 22, and across the nation, voters are turning out in historic numbers to vote early.

Arizona’s elections have already run into challenges, as a voter registration error caused some voters to receive ballots that only had federal races on them. It’s also a state where voter laws have changed after the Supreme Court upheld voting restrictions, including a law making it illegal to turn another person’s completed ballot in to election officials, with an exception for family members and caregivers. The decision also upheld a law that requires in-person ballots to be discarded if someone votes at a precinct other than the one they are assigned to.

As the midterm elections draw closer, people across the country are turning out to work as poll watchers and monitor elections, driven by unfounded claims of election fraud by former President Donald Trump and his supporters. Poll watchers are long-standing part of the election process, but official poll workers must be trained and follow rules set by states.

Negative rhetoric has been increasing ahead of the midterms, and social media sites are already bracing for misinformation about voting and election results. Experts say some sites are more ready than others to keep misinformation from spreading.

In Arizona, governor candidate Kari Lake has supported Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud and has advocated for new, stricter voting restrictions. The FBI has identified Arizona as one of the top states for threats against election workers.

Maricopa Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates has asked people to respect election workers while poll watching. He and recorder Stephen Richter issued a joint statement regarding the armed ballot watchers.

“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,” the statement read.

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