In Arizona, there have already been attempts to intimidate voters. Two armed men wearing tactical gear and masks were seen sitting and watching drop box locations in Maricopa County, even though Arizona law makes it illegal to have weapons within 75 feet of voting locations.
At least three people filed voter intimidation complaints with the state attorney general’s office saying someone took pictures of their face and their license plate at a drop box location.
At a U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting on Monday, officials pointed out that far-right groups such as the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers are signing up as poll watchers and workers as part of their plan to intimidate voters.
One group called Clean Elections USA is actively recruiting people to watch ballot boxes around the country, claiming it’s trying to prevent unlawful ballot casting.
Officials in Arizona said armed ballot box watchers won’t be tolerated.
Maricopa County Board of Supervisors chairman Bill Gates said that during the primary elections, there were people watching the ballots on roofs of buildings, taking pictures of people and attempting to intimidate voters.
“This is the sort of thing that has been going on. This is the sort of thing that has been normalized, and it has to stop,” Gates said.
Gates also released a statement with Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, raising concerns about safety.
“Uniformed vigilantes outside Maricopa County’s drop boxes are not increasing election integrity. Instead, they are leading to voter intimidation complaints. 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,” the statement read.
A federal judge in Arizona said he plans to decide by Friday if he will ban members of Clean Elections USA from being within sight of any drop boxes in Maricopa County after the judge received two different requests asking that the group be blocked.
The Justice Department has set up an entire unit to respond to threats to election officials coming through letters, emails and voicemails.
Senior officials say the Election Threats Task Force has gotten more than 1,000 tips since it was set up in June 2021. Eleven percent have met the federal threshold for launching a criminal investigation and four resulted in arrests.
The FBI said it continues to see an unusually high number of threats in seven swing states, including Arizona and Wisconsin.
Scott McDonell is the Democratic clerk for Dane County, the second largest county in Wisconsin. He said he’s preparing for the worst and working with federal agencies on security.
“We don’t really have a very secure location here,” he said.
McDonell has sent his staff through active shooter training while also adding physical security measures to prevent someone from walking right into the elections office to confront staff.
That wall has been there for less than a year. The cameras went up a couple weeks ago,” he said. “We tell whoever is working the front desk, don’t mess around. If you feel worried at all, just head to the back.”