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Kelly Townsend encourages vigilantes to camp outside ballot drop-off boxes. Is that legal?

The Republican senator said Tuesday that citizens should stand guard outside ballot drop-off boxes and write down license plate numbers of suspicious characters.

PHOENIX — Arizona Sen. Kelly Townsend, R-District 16, is encouraging vigilantes to camp out near drop-off boxes during the upcoming election and track individuals they think appear suspicious.

At the end of a Republican-led presentation on Tuesday at the Arizona Legislature involving the 2020 election, Townsend called out for individuals to survey drop-off ballot boxes and confront individuals they suspect to be "mules." 

"I have been so pleased to hear of all you vigilantes that want to camp out at these drop boxes. Right? So, do it. Do it," Townsend said.

Tuesday's presentation featured comments from individuals involved in the True the Vote movement, which has been suggesting ballot harvesting has been taking place in Arizona and other states based on their analysis of cellphone signal data.

Last year, officials in Georgia determined allegations made by True the Vote could not be substantiated due to a lack of evidence, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Individuals from True the Vote told Arizona legislators Tuesday that they could not publicly disclose the names of individuals or organizations they suspect of ballot harvesting. 

In an attempt to stop voters they believe are not legitimate, Townsend is encouraging vigilantes to stand guard outside drop-off boxes and confront individuals they believe are conducting voter fraud.

"If you're going to come and be like a mule and stuff ballot boxes this time, you're gonna get caught," Townsend said. "So don't try. We're gonna be out there, we're gonna have hidden trail cameras, we're gonna have people parked out there watching you and they're going to follow you to your car and get your license plate. It's gonna happen. So don't try it." 

“The idea of partisan vigilantes surrounding polling places, that’s dangerous," said Arizona State University law professor Paul Bender.

The Arizona Secretary of State's Office has rules in place for what citizens can and cannot do at voting locations.

"Any attempt to intimidate, coerce, or threaten a person to vote or not vote is strictly prohibited and may be criminally punishable," the office's website states.

Arizona law further states it is illegal "to practice intimidation upon or against any person, in order to induce or compel such person to vote or refrain from voting for a particular person or measure at any election." 

“If they do anything to affect the people who are voting so that they are less likely to vote, or affect the way they vote. If they do that in any threatening manner, that would be illegal," Bender said. "

The Arizona Senate recently rejected a bill that would have required drop-off boxes to be constantly monitored by video surveillance or election staff. 

“Maricopa County is going to have 15 drop boxes that are county secured," said Maricopa Recorder Stephen Richer. “All those drop boxes except for one are going to be in government facilities. The only one that’s not, that [one] is outside the Maricopa County Tabulation Center.

RELATED: Arizona Senate rejects bill banning unsupervised drop-off ballot boxes

RELATED: Arizona Republican Party wants to throw out the way 90% of voters cast a ballot

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