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Townsend encourages 'vigilantes' to monitor ballot drop boxes, denies it's intimidation

kelly townsend
Gage Skidmore/CC BY 2.0
Kelly Townsend

One of the leading proponents of the claim that there is fraud in Arizona elections wants "vigilantes" to monitor ballot drop boxes in the upcoming election.

Sen. Kelly Townsend (R-Apache Junction) complained during an informal legislative hearing Tuesday about the failure of the Senate to either outlaw drop boxes entirely or require that they be monitored 24 hours a day. In fact, Townsend wants to deal with the issue of possible fraudulent ballots by eliminating early voting entirely.

But that measure has failed to advance amid concerns about its effects, like one expressed by Senate President Karen Fann (R-Phoenix) about telling the 90% of Arizonans who now vote early, including the elderly, that they instead may have to stand in line in the sun to vote in the August primary.

And Townsend said Tuesday that even if she could line up the votes this legislative session to outlaw drop boxes, or at least require they be monitored, it already is too late to put that in effect for the Aug. 2 primary.

"That's unacceptable," said Townsend. But she had a solution of sorts that involved the people watching the hearing.

"I have been so pleased to hear of all you vigilantes out there that want to camp out at these drop boxes, right?" she said to applause from the audience. "So, do it."

Townsend said that will send a message to "mules" who carry around and deposit fraudulent ballots into those boxes.

Among the options, she said, will be "trail cameras," normally used to monitor wildlife in remote locations. But that's only part of it.

"We're going to have people out there watching you," Townsend said. "And they're going to follow you to your car and get your license plate."

Townsend, in an interview with Capitol Media Services after the hearing, defended the call.

"If it's a person committing a crime, why wouldn't you get their license plate?" she asked. Nor does she consider it intimidation.

She acknowledged that state law allows individuals to deposit not only their own ballots in drop boxes but also those of people who live in the same household. And caretakers also can handle multiple ballots.

"I don't support intimidating people that are sticking grandma's ballot in a box," Townsend said. "But if there's a clear crime, I want there to be a deterrent."

That, then, leaves it up to the person doing the observation to determine whether a crime is taking place.

Townsend said that becomes obvious in certain cases, saying there have been situations where individuals drive up to a drop box with a box or backpack full of ballots. She said it's unlikely that anyone has 30 people living in their home.

Her comments came at the end of a presentation to a select group of lawmakers by organizers of True the Vote. That's the organization that provided material to Trump supporter Dinesh D'Sousa for his "2000 Mules" movie claiming massive vote fraud from people depositing multiple early ballots in drop boxes, including here in Arizona despite state laws to the contrary.

Much of what was presented Tuesday was not new but instead came from the movie. That included some video, none of which apparently came from Arizona, of people stuffing ballots into drop boxes.