York County officials urge voters to report intimidation as people watch drop boxes in Arizona

Matt Enright
York Dispatch

Complaints of voter intimidation in Arizona spread across national news as voters dropped off mail-in ballots, prompting a bipartisan response from officials.

As reported by NPR, Arizona Secretary of State and current Democratic candidate for governor Katie Hobbs referred six potential incidents to law enforcement. That included reports of armed men watching a drop box in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix and is the state's most populous county.

Operation Drop Box, as it was referred to by the groups involved, was a coordinated effort where people would watch and film voters who dropped off mail-in ballots at the drop boxes. It appears to have been inspired by debunked film "2000 Mules," which claimed without basis that so-called "ballot mules" illegally dropped off multiple ballots at drop boxes during the 2020 election.

"Uninformed vigilantes outside Maricopa County's drop boxes are not increasing election integrity," Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer and Maricopa County Board Chair Bill Gates — both Republicans — told NPR in a joint statement. "Instead they are leading to voter intimidation complaints."

Thus far, there don't appear to be any plans to carry out anything like Operation Drop Box in Pennsylvania.

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York County Chief Clerk Greg Monskie said he was unaware of any local concerns about potential voter intimidation.

"Our 'drop box' will be staffed at all times it is available by both County employees and a Sheriff’s Deputy," Monskie said via email. "I trust those individuals to deal with any security issues they might encounter."

The Department of State outlined the possible consequences of attempting to interfere or intimidate voters.

"Any activity that threatens, harasses or intimidates voters outside or inside a polling place, at secure ballot receptacles, at mailboxes or at a county election office is illegal. This includes any activity intended to, or having the effect of, interfering with any voter’s right to vote," spokesperson Ellen Lyon said via email.

If there are instances of voter intimidation, Lyon said to contact the Board of Elections and the District Attorney's Office. In addition, they can also be reported to the department's year-round voter hotline at 1-877-868-3772.

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"Any criminal matter is dependent upon facts at hand and the governing law," district attorney spokesperson Kyle King said via email.

In 2020, a video was created by District Attorney Dave Sunday and various police chiefs urging civility around Election Day. King said there were no plans to re-create that video, though they may rerelease it at some point before Nov. 8.

"The 2020 video remains relevant, and we wholeheartedly support it today," King said via email.

The incidents in Arizona prompted a lawsuit by the Arizona branch of the League of Women Voters asking that people affiliated with a group called Clean Elections USA be barred from "further intimidating voters or otherwise violating the law." At least one group affiliated with Clean Elections USA, Lions of Liberty, has claimed that Operation Drop Box is terminated and gave orders to stand down.

On Friday, a federal judge refused to bar Clean Elections USA from monitoring outdoor ballot boxes in Maricopa County, saying to do so could violate the monitors' constitutional rights, according to The Associated Press.

U.S. District Court Judge Michael Liburdi said the case remained open and that the Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans could try again to make its argument against Clean Elections USA. A second plaintiff, Voto Latino, was removed from the case.

Liburdi concluded that “while this case certainly presents serious questions, the Court cannot craft an injunction without violating the First Amendment.” The judge is an appointee of former President Donald Trump and a member of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal organization.

York County's drop box is available 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday and Saturday and Sunday, and 7 a.m.-8 p.m. on Election Day outside the York County Administrative Center, 28 E. Market St.

To contact the York County Board of Elections, call 717-771-9904 or email evr@yorkcountypa.gov. To contact the District Attorney's Office, call 717-771-9600.

— Reach Matt Enright via email at menright@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @Matthew_Enright.