Just days after allowing an activist group to monitor ballot drop boxes, a federal judge issued a restraining order restricting the group’s activities.
In an order handed down Tuesday evening, judge Michael T. Liburdi of the U.S. District Court of Arizona severely curtailed the activities that members of the election activist group Clean Elections USA can engage in while monitoring drop boxes in the state. The judge also mandated that the group’s founder, Melody Jennings, must correct public statements she made about ballot drop boxes, among other orders.
According to the order, while the group is monitoring drop boxes, they are not allowed to:
- intentionally be within 75 feet of a ballot drop box or a building a drop box is located in;
- intentionally follow voters dropping off ballots at a drop box, when voters are within the prescribed area of the drop box;
- speak to or yell at anyone dropping off ballots and within the prescribed area, unless they are spoken to or yelled at first;
- openly carry firearms or wear body armor within 250 feet of a drop box.
In addition, the judge ordered Clean Elections USA to post a statement to their social media accounts, and to Jennings’s personal Truth Social account. “It is not always illegal to deposit multiple ballots in a ballot drop box,” the statement reads. “It is legal to deposit the ballot of a family member, household member, or person for whom you are the caregiver. Here are the rules for ballot drop boxes by which I ask you to abide”: the posts must be accompanied by a copy of Arizona’s ballot drop box law, or a web link to the text of the law, along with a copy of or link to the restraining order itself.
The judge then ordered Jennings to post a separate message on her personal Truth Social account. “Any past statement that it is always illegal to deposit multiple ballots in a ballot drop box is incomplete; a family member, household member, or caregiver can legally do so.”
The restraining order will last for 14 days.
The order comes less than a week after Liburdi ruled in favor of Clean Elections USA, allowing them to keep monitoring ballot drop boxes after two liberal activists groups, the Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans and Voto Latino, sued to stop the group from monitoring the drop boxes, claiming that it was violating the Voting Rights Act and the Ku Klux Klan Act.
“Defendants have not made any statements threatening to commit acts of unlawful violence to a particular individual or group of individuals,” Liburdi wrote, citing public statements Jennings made urging volunteers to to follow the law and remain outside the mandatory 75-foot radius of the drop box, and not to interact with alleged “ballot mules” at the drop boxes. “Defendants’ conduct does not fall into any traditionally recognized category of voter intimidation,” Liburdi added.
“While there are serious questions implicated, the Court cannot provide preliminary injunctive relief without infringing core constitutional rights,” Liburdi wrote in his conclusion. However, he left the case open for future litigation, writing in his conclusion that Arizona Alliance could sue in future if they could prove that Clean Elections USA was engaging in actual voter intimidation.