Armed individuals dressed in tactical gear are surveilling ballot drop boxes in Arizona, raising concerns about intimidation during early voting in the midterm elections.
The Maricopa County Elections Department said two people with weapons were spotted at a ballot drop box in Mesa on Friday. The two wore masks to obscure their faces and left the area after the county sheriff’s office responded.
And on Saturday night, four people ― two of them reportedly armed with handguns ― got into a confrontation at the same drop box when another individual arrived and attempted to record their license plate information.
Two armed individuals dressed in tactical gear surveilled a ballot drop box in Mesa, Arizona, on Friday. (Photo: Maricopa County Elections Department)
“He chased over at me and pushed me and grabbed me as I was pulling the cloth of his license plate to video his license plate,” the woman, who was dressed as a nun, told KTVK News.
“I just felt fair is fair — they’re videotaping voters’ license plates, so I didn’t think it was really a big deal to photograph theirs.”
Garrett Archer, a data analyst at Arizona’s KNXV-TV News, shared a photo of the obscured license plate in question, noting with some irony that the ballot-box watchers don’t want their own plates photographed.
Right-wing groups have been staking out ballot boxes across the country and taking photos of people and their license plates as they cast votes in next month’s elections, all with the explicit encouragement of Republican politicians.
Arizona GOP lawmakers have repeatedly urged the self-styled vigilantism, even calling on followers to install hidden cameras at ballot boxes and to trail voters to and from their cars.
Last week, the Arizona secretary of state referred a report of voter intimidation to the state attorney general’s office and the U.S. Department of Justice after a voter reported being “approached and followed by a group of individuals” while trying to drop off a ballot.
“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 Maricopa County Elections Department said in a statement.
“Uninformed vigilantes outside Maricopa County’s drop boxes are not increasing election integrity,” the department added. “Instead they are leading to voter intimidation complaints.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.