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Top Arizona election official refers more cases of potential voter intimidation to law enforcement

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs has referred six reports of possible voter intimidation to law enforcement in the past week, as well as an allegation of harassment of an election worker, her office said Monday.

The cases were referred to the state attorney general’s office and the U.S. Justice Department for further investigation. Early voting got underway Oct. 12 in the battleground state, where Hobbs is the Democratic nominee for governor.

Hobbs said in a statement that her office had received “several complaints” and that voters should not feel threatened or intimidated when they try to exercise their right to vote.

“Anyone attempting to interfere with that right should be reported,” she said.

The complaints have included voters’ allegations that they were recorded and that their license plates were photographed as they dropped off ballots. Hobbs’ office said it also referred a report of election worker harassment to law enforcement Saturday.

In one instance, a group of about eight to 10 people began recording or taking photographs of a voter as he pulled up to a drop box in a car, the voter said. The voter, who was not identified, said he was followed by a white SUV Pathfinder and believed the group’s intention was to intimidate him and his wife as voters, according to an email copy of a report summarizing his concerns provided by Hobbs’ office.

In a separate incident, the chairman of Maricopa County’s Board of Supervisors, Bill Gates, and its recorder, Stephen Richer, both Republicans, said deputies from the sheriff’s office responded Friday evening when two armed people were seen at a drop box area in Mesa.

“We are deeply concerned about the safety of individuals who are exercising their constitutional right to vote and who are lawfully taking their early ballot to a drop box,” the officials said in a statement.

Video from the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office shows two unidentified people with a white pickup truck wearing tactical gear stationed in the parking lot of Maricopa County Juvenile Court, where one of the county’s two drop boxes is located.

In a tweet Monday, Republican secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem appeared to defend recording voters at the polls.

“I think voters should hold mules and fraudsters accountable by recording them,” Finchem tweeted Monday night. “If they are doing they right thing, they have nothing to fear.”

Finchem tweeted after Democratic secretary of state candidate Adrian Fontes suggested in a statement that Finchem, a 2020 election denier, had played a role in “egging on” bad actors.

“To the thugs terrorizing people at dropboxes with masks, with weapons: You’re not Batman. You’re not heroes,” Fontes said. “You’re anti-American bullies who are breaking the law and intimidating voters based on a lie. Someone is going to get killed.”

Tensions are running high in the homestretch to the midterms, with many officials worried about the potential for voter intimidation in the wake of the 2020 election.

An Iowa man was arrested this month on charges that he left a pair of threatening voicemails for a local election official in Arizona and an official associated with the state attorney general’s office nearly a year after the 2020 election. The case is being pursued by the Justice Department’s Election Threats Task Force, which was launched in June 2021. It has charged people in numerous states.

Attorney General Merrick Garland reiterated the Justice Department’s commitment to protecting the right to vote at a news conference Monday.

“The Justice Department has an obligation to prevent — to guarantee a free and fair vote by everyone who’s qualified to vote and will not permit voters to be intimidated,” he said.

Vaughn Hillyard contributed.

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