Sun, 04 Jun 2023

PHOENIX (CN) - The Arizona League of Women Voters has reached a settlement in a lawsuit filed over masked and armed citizens guarding ballot drop boxes during the 2022 General Election. But details of the agreement remain unclear.

Both the league and Melody Jennings, the activist who largely inspired Arizonans to take up arms to defend against what she claimed were "ballot mules" dropping off multiple fraudulent ballots at a time, agreed to "publicly condemn intimidation of any kind in connection with the exercise of the right to vote," according to a league press release.

Both parties say the agreement is confidential, and both seem triumphant in their results.

The League sued Jennings and her organization, Clean Elections USA, this past October after Arizonans in multiple cities complained of masked, sometimes armed men in tactical gear and bulletproof vests intimidating voters by recording them and taking photos of their cars and license plates. The push to protect ballot boxes stemmed from largely unfounded claims of widespread election fraud pushed by mainly Republican lawmakers and candidates, like 2022 gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake.

U.S. District Judge Michael Liburdi granted the league a two-week temporary restraining order on Nov. 1, telling the defendants they couldn't be within 75 feet of a drop box or entrance to a building containing a drop box, follow individuals delivering ballots to the drop box, speak to voters within 75 feet of a drop box unless first spoken to, or openly carry firearms or wear visible body armor within 250 feet of a drop box.

Liburdi also ordered Clean Elections USA to post to its website and Jennings' Twitter page a statement clarifying that submitting multiple ballots at a time isn't always illegal. For example one could drop off a ballot for themself as well as on behalf of family members or anyone under their legal care.

In January, Liburdi denied the league's motion for preliminary injunction, which would have permanently barred ballot patrolling pending a jury verdict. Instead, Liburdi urged the parties to settle, which they finally did Friday evening after monthslong settlement talks.

Now that the case is settled, each party gives a different impression of who got the best of the deal.

"It's finally over," Jennings tweeted Saturday, linking to a statement from True The Vote, another anti-voter fraud organization that funded Jennings' legal defense.

True The Vote president Catherine EngelBrecht called the settlement "a win for free speech and the right to assemble peaceably."

"Today, freedom won," she said in the statement.

Jennings said in the statement that she's happy "to have had the opportunity to stand up for the Constitution and assert my rights on behalf of all Americans."

The defense's rhetoric implies members of the group are still allowed to gather at ballot boxes to monitor for "ballot mules," but there may be more restrictions in place while doing so.

"This litigation has been essential to protect the voters of Arizona, who have the right to cast their ballots free from intimidation, threats, or coercion," said Pinny Sheoran, president of the league. "The League of Women Voters of Arizona is proud to have challenged activities that were intimidating voters, and we will continue to defend our democracy against anyone who would interfere with the right to vote."

Attorneys for both sides declined to provide additional details.

Source: Courthouse News Service

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