Two masked individuals dressed in tactical gear sit near a ballot dropbox location in Mesa, Arizona on October 21, 2022. “This is obviously totally incompatible with liberal democracy and an open society,” said one commentator. Photo by Nicole Grigg/ABC15 Arizona/Twitter Screengrab.
Armed ‘poll watchers’ in Arizona heighten alarm over right-wing voter intimidation
by Jake Johnson — Common Dreams
Video footage released Friday night showing armed individuals sitting near a ballot drop box in Mesa, Arizona is heightening alarm over right-wing intimidation efforts as early voting kicks off across the United States.
The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office told a local ABC affiliate that it is investigating several individuals who were watching a Mesa voting location on Friday. The department confirmed that two individuals at the site were armed.
A clip posted to social media by ABC reporter Nicole Grigg shows two masked people dressed in tactical gear observing the ballot drop box.
“This is obviously totally incompatible with liberal democracy and an open society,” MSNBC’s Chris Hayes wrote in response to the video.
Maricopa County, the largest county in Arizona, emerged as a key election-denial flashpoint in 2020 as Trump supporters baselessly accused local officials of engaging in fraud to deny the former president a second term. President Joe Biden narrowly won the state in 2020, a victory that was subsequently confirmed by a GOP-led review of the vote count.
Two years later, in the midst of the critical midterm election season, Arizona is once again drawing national attention as right-wing groups animated by false fraud narratives mobilize and harass voters. Making matters worse, election deniers are running for key posts in the state, including governor and secretary of state.
Earlier this week, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs referred to the U.S. Justice Department a report from a Mesa voter who said that a group of people gathered near a ballot drop box filmed and photographed him and his wife as they attempted to vote.
The person said he was accused of “being a mule,” a reference to a ballot-stuffing conspiracy theory that’s become popular in right-wing circles.
Justin Heywood, a spokesperson for the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office, told VICE that “the county supports the referral to the Department of Justice on this potential case of voter intimidation.”
“We have received four reports forwarded by the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office,” Heywood said. “We encourage any voter who feels threatened, harassed, or intimidated to report it. It is unacceptable and unlawful to impede any voter from participating in the election.”
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