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'It is unacceptable': Alleged case of voter intimidation in Maricopa County under investigation

Records show a couple says they were accused of 'being a mule' when trying to drop off their ballot in Mesa.

MESA, Ariz. — A potential case of voter intimidation at a ballot drop box in Mesa is now in the hands of the U.S. Department of Justice and the Arizona Attorney General's Office. 

A voter and their wife said they were at the Mesa drop box located at the Maricopa County Juvenile Court when they saw a group of people hanging out near the drop box, records show. 

The voter filled out an online form on the Secretary of State's website saying that the people took pictures and video of the couple, adding that the group accused them of "being a mule".

The voter said the group also took pictures of their license plate and followed the couple out of the parking lot still capturing them on camera.

A spokesperson for the Secretary of State's office said the voter was spoken with, and the report was referred to the Department of Justice and the Arizona Attorney General's office. 

"We have received the referral and are currently reviewing it. Everyone should feel safe exercising their voting rights. If someone feels threatened, please contact local law enforcement right away," Brittni Tomason, a spokesperson for the Arizona Attorney General's office said in an email to 12News. 

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

Clean Elections Commission seeking AG's help

Regarding concerns over the drop box watchers, the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission is also asking for the Attorney General's Office to step in. 

The Commission sends out a Voter Education Guide that is non-partisan and includes statements from candidates. 

Due to the drop box watchers, the commission is concerned that, "... The group's usage of the Clean Elections name in Arizona creates a high likelihood of voter confusion and may cause voters to find the guide untrustworthy or partisan." 

12News did not receive a response back from the Attorney General's Office regarding the Commission's request. 

'We will investigate' 

There are rules for what can and can't happen at a polling place or a ballot drop-off location, and intimidating voters isn't allowed.

The Secretary of State's Office says those who violate the law can be criminally punished.  

A spokesperson for the Maricopa County Elections Department said a total of four reports of voting incidents have been forwarded to the county from the Secretary of State's Office. 

"It is unacceptable and unlawful to impede any voter from participating in the election. The County has taken active steps to ensure the safety and security of staff and voters, but many of these self-styled “dropbox watchers” have the right to be on public sidewalks and parking lots," Megan Gilbertson, a spokesperson for the department said in an email to 12News.

When asked about the drop box watchers this week, Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer encouraged people to report intimidation. 

"If you’re a voter that feels intimidated, deterred from participating in the process, we ask that you report that it’s something that we will investigate every single alleged occurrence," Richer said. 

Incidents can be reported through the Secretary of State's website.

Options to drop off your ballot 

Richer told 12News in May that dropping off ballots at a drop box is more secure than dropping your ballot off in the mail. 

But, mailing ballots in through USPS is an option to skip a ballot drop box or a polling place. Ballots are recommended to be in the mail by November 1 to ensure they're received by 7 p.m. on election day. 

Voting by mail is still considered a “very secure process” by the Maricopa County Elections Department. 

In the previous interview with 12News, Richer said the drop boxes are opened and collected by a bipartisan team and are constantly watched.

Find Maricopa County ballot drop-off locations here.

Decision 2022

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