Federal Court Shoots Down Arizona Dem Case Against State GOP, Trump Camp

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a rally, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016, in Clive, Iowa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
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A federal court denied the Arizona Democratic Party’s request to block the Arizona GOP, the Donald Trump campaign and Trump-ally Roger Stone from engaging in what Democrats described as vigilante voter intimidation tactics.

“The Court heard no evidence of a broad conspiracy to intimidate voters through poll watching, as claimed by Plaintiff, or a plan by [the Arizona Republican Party] to train or otherwise organize poll watchers with the Trump Campaign, Stop the Steal or Mr. Stone,” the decision, issued Friday, said.

U.S. District Court Judge John J. Tuchi said that “[o]ne can seriously question the wisdom” of some of the statements Trump has made from the stump, but that Democrats failed to provide evidence of “any attempts at voter intimidation, or any voter reporting they felt intimidated, during this cycle.” He also pointed to changes the Arizona GOP said it was making to its website, clarifying that its poll watchers should not try to photograph people around poll places with multiple ballots, in light of the state’s ballot harvesting law being blocked by an appeals court Friday. Democrats had pointed to the instructions for poll watchers to photograph people at polling places suspected of ballot harvesting — referring to efforts to bring other voters’ absentee ballots to the polls — as proof the Arizona GOP was encouraging intimidating tactics.

As for Stone, and his group Stop the Steal’s efforts to recruit poll watchers, the judge did not buy Stone’s claims that he was not very involved with the organization. But he said that the Democrats had failed to prove that the group’s plans — which include conducting unscientific exit polling and encouraging unofficial poll watchers to wear certain clothing — would result in illegal voter intimidation.

“Neither the encouragement of the activities alleged, nor the activities themselves are per se prohibited,” the judge said. “It is Plaintiff’s burden to illustrate that these activities are likely to intimidate, threaten, or coerce voters. The evidence educed has failed to do so.”

The Arizona lawsuit was one of six complaints Democratic state parties filed across the country against their GOP counterparts, Stone and the Trump campaign. A federal judge in Ohio placed a restraining order against the Trump campaign and Stone in the case there, blocking them “from conspiring to intimidate, threaten, harass, or coerce voters on Election Day.” The judge added “other individuals or groups, including groups associated with the Clinton for Presidency campaign” should not engage in the voter intimidation tactics described in the order.

A separate legal action brought by the Democratic National Committee is underway against the Republican National Committee, for its alleged collaboration with the Trump campaign on “ballot security” initiatives — a claim the RNC denies — that Democrats say violates a decades-old consent decree limiting RNC involvement in poll watching efforts. A decision in that case is expected Saturday.

Read the Arizona order below:

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