The GQP culture of corruption in Arizona runs wide and deep.
Federal District Judge Michael Liburdi was one of the Republican Party’s redistricting lawyers along with David Cantelme in 2011. A judgeship was his reward. He was appointed to the bench by Donald Trump in 2019.
The Associated Press reports, US judge in Arizona lets group monitor ballot drop boxes:
A federal judge Friday refused to bar a group from monitoring outdoor ballot boxes in Arizona’s largest county, saying that to do so could violate the its constitutional rights [while they are violating your constitutional rights. because IOKIYAR, I guess. WTF?]
U.S. District Court Judge Michael Liburdi issued the ruling Friday. Local and federal law enforcement have been alarmed by reports of people watching outdoor 24-hour ballot boxes in Maricopa County — Arizona’s most populous county — and rural Yavapai County as midterm elections near.
READ Ruling by federal judge in Phoenix rejecting temporary injunction to block ballot watchers at drop boxes. https://t.co/PmsNZgZ7rC
— Brahm Resnik (@brahmresnik) October 28, 2022
Democracy Docket reports, Judge Allows Arizona Vigilantes To Continue Monitoring Drop Boxes￼:
On Friday, Oct. 28, a federal judge declined to issue a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction that would have prevented Clean Elections USA (a right-wing group behind vigilante drop box monitoring in Arizona) and its supporters from engaging in voter intimidation activities in Arizona during the midterm elections.
On Monday, Oct. 24, the Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans and Voto Latino filed a lawsuit against Clean Elections USA, its affiliates and unidentified individuals challenging the organization’s voter intimidation practices in Arizona. In their complaint, the groups allege that there were at least five instances last week where Clean Elections USA supporters “gathered at ballot drop boxes in Maricopa County with the express purpose of deterring voters.” The plaintiffs argue that Clean Elections USA’s alleged “coordinated campaign of vigilante voter intimidation” practices violate both the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965 and the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871.
On the same day that they filed the lawsuit, the plaintiffs filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction asking the court to prohibit the defendants from “gathering within sight of drop boxes; from following, taking photos of, or otherwise recording voters or prospective voters, those assisting voters or prospective voters, or their vehicles at or around a drop box; and from training, organizing, or directing others to do the same.”
Today, a federal court declined to grant the requested relief, meaning that Clean Elections USA and its affiliates will not be prevented from intimidating voters attempting to vote via drop boxes in Arizona during the 2022 midterm elections. By refusing to grant the sought relief, this order stands to potentially embolden not only Clean Elections USA and its affiliates but other right-wing vigilante groups across the country.
This ruling comes after a hearing in which the plaintiffs, the Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans and Voto Latino, argued that Clean Elections USA would harm voters if the group’s actions were allowed to persist. In his order today, the judge cited First Amendment concerns, finding that “[t]he requested preliminary injunctive relief implicates serious First Amendment considerations. An individual’s right to vote is fundamental. But so too is an individual’s right to engage in political speech, assemble peacefully, and associate with others.” The judge concluded that the defendants’ intent was not to prevent people from voting but rather “to prevent what [the defendants] perceive to be widespread illegal voting and ballot harvesting.” [Virtually non-existent.]
On this point, the judge wrote that the message that Clean Elections USA hopes to convey is “that persons who attempt to break Arizona’s anti-ballot harvesting law will be exposed. On this record, therefore, the Court finds that a reasonable observer could interpret the conduct as conveying some sort of message, regardless of whether the message has any objective merit,” which falls under the protection of the First Amendment.
It is in direct violation of theVoting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965 and the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, and a body of judicial precedents dating back decades. In none of these cases did the courts rule that klansman or other voter suppressors had a first amendment right to harass and intimidate voters lawfully engaged in voting. The laws specifically prohibit this! Judge Liburdi is unfit to continue to serve on the bench.
During the hearing, the plaintiffs’ attorney addressed the judge’s First Amendment concerns, arguing that there is “no evidence that [the drop box watchers] intended to express any understandable message. They wouldn’t talk to the press…what they’re trying to do is take photographs and scare people.”
While the judge found that the “Defendants’ conduct does not fall into any traditionally recognized category of voter intimidation” [yes, it does!] and there was no “evidence that Defendants’ conduct constitutes a true threat,” he “acknowledge[d] that Plaintiffs and many voters are legitimately alarmed by the observers.” In the end, though, the judge decided this alarm does not constitute grounds for an order temporarily preventing the defendants from further engaging in this behavior.
The plaintiffs have already appealed this decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
It will be overturned by the Ninth Circuit. In the meantime, we have a rogue Republican judge on the bench who needs to be removed.
UPDATE: DOJ submits a statement of interest in the case.
The Justice Department on Monday waded into a closely watched election lawsuit in Arizona where several civic groups have accused right-wing activists of intimidating voters at ballot drop boxes.
The allegations “raise serious concerns of voter intimidation,” the Justice Department wrote, adding that “vigilante ballot security efforts” and “private campaigns to video record voters” likely violate the federal Voting Rights Act.
“Citizen-led election monitoring activities are more likely to put voters in reasonable fear of harassment, intimidation, coercion, or interference with their voting rights,” DOJ added.
The lawsuit pits the League of Women Voters against several right-wing groups that have promoted false claims about voter fraud and the 2020 election. The group accused the groups of sending vigilante poll watchers, including some with guns and wearing tactical gear, to videotape and intimidate voters at drop boxes.
In a related case brought by separate groups, a federal judge declined to issue a court order prohibiting the right-wing activists from gathering near drop boxes or photographing voters near drop boxes. District Judge Michael Liburdi, who is overseeing both cases, said there were legitimate concerns about the conduct but there wasn’t enough evidence at this stage to restrict anyone’s First Amendment rights.
The League of Women Voters is still pressing for a court order to specifically ban, among other things, armed vigilantes from congregating near the drop boxes. A hearing is slated for Tuesday.
[T]he Justice Department filing dovetailed with some of the arguments put forward by the League of Women Voters, specifically claiming there aren’t constitutional protections for election vigilantism.
“Much like a citizen’s refusal to pay taxes does not become protected speech because she is attempting to express disapproval of the IRS, photographing a voter’s license plate does not become protected speech whenever the photographer seeks to express disapproval of drop-box voting,” the Justice Department said.
The Justice Department further bolstered the civic groups’ arguments by saying in its filing Monday that the First Amendment’s right to assembly doesn’t allow people to assemble for the purpose of coercing voters.
Last week, Attorney General Merrick Garland spoke out, saying the Justice Department “will not permit voters to be intimidated” during the midterm elections.