Posted July 28, 2022 3:08 PM
With the state’s primary election days away, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona has appointed a district election officer who will oversee complaints of voter rights violations and allegations of voter fraud, officials said Thursday.
Sean Lokey, an assistant U.S. attorney, will lead those efforts in “consultation” with Justice Department headquarters in Washington, U.S. Attorney Gary Restaino said.
“Election Day is an opportunity for the citizens of Arizona to make their voices heard,” said Restaino, the state’s top federal attorney. “The Department of Justice maintains strong partnerships with highly professional and dedicated election officials across the state. Together, we can do our best to ensure that every eligible voter who chooses to vote can do so easily and efficiently, without interference or discrimination.”
The Justice Department has maintained district election officers for decades, and Lokey took on the role in 2020.
Justice Department officials have “an important role in deterring voter fraud and discrimination at the ballot box and addressing these violations where and when they occur,” said Yvette Cantu, spokesperson for the US Attorney’s office. She added that the Justice Department has a “long-standing” program designed to protect elections and “ensure public confidence in the integrity of the electoral process.”
The office could pursue lawsuits, including those against people who allegedly intimidated or bribed voters, sought to buy or sell votes. The office will also pursue prosecution of people who attempt to impersonate voters, alter the vote count, “stuff” ballot boxes or mark voters’ ballots against their will.
Federal law also protects voters from acts that “intimidate or harass them,” the U.S. attorney’s office said.
The officials said that, for example, “actions designed to interrupt or intimidate voters at polling stations by questioning, challenging, photographing or filming them under the pretense that they are actions to find out illegal voting may themselves violate federal suffrage law.”
The bureau’s warning comes as some Republican candidates – mistakenly believing that thousands of votes in the 2020 election were cast illegally via ballot boxes – pushed their supporters to videotape people handing in their ballots.
On June 1, State Senator Kelly Townsend called on ‘vigilants’ to spy on people as they used ballot boxes following a hearing featuring True the Vote, a conservative group that pushed the claims . As part of this effort, True the Vote released the film “2,000 Mules”, which claims that hundreds of Democratic agents, or “mules”, were illegally paid to cast fake ballots.
However, as The Associated Press reported, the film is based on “faulty assumptions, anonymous accounts and incorrect analysis of cellphone location data” which, despite the film’s claims, are “not enough accurate to confirm that someone dropped a ballot into a drop box, according to insiders.”
“Voting is the cornerstone of American democracy,” the US attorney’s office wrote. “We must all ensure that those who have the right to vote exercise that right if they wish, and that those who seek to corrupt our elections are brought to justice.”
She noted that Lokey will be “on duty” Aug. 2 for the primary and “will respond to complaints of voter fraud, violation of voting rights or intimidation.”
Lokey can be reached by the public at 602-514-7516.
Cantu added that the FBI will also have special agents based at the Phoenix Field Division to receive allegations of election abuse on Election Day. The FBI in Arizona can be reached by phone at 623-466-1999 or online at https://tips.fbi.gov/.
Additionally, complaints regarding violations of federal voting rights laws may be filed directly with the Division of Civil Rights in Washington, DC. People can call the office at 800-253-3931 or file a complaint form online at https://civilrights.justice. govt/.
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