An Arizona federal district judge narrowed a poll-watching group’s ability to monitor ballot drop boxes by issuing restrictions on taking photos and videos of early voters and prohibiting the open carry of firearms and wearing tactical gear within 250 feet of a drop box. The temporary restraining order, issued Nov. 1 by U.S. District Judge Michael Liburdi bars affiliates and members of the poll-watching group Clean Elections USA from taking photos and videos of people within 75 feet of a drop box; following, yelling or speaking to people dropping off ballots unless they’re engaged first; and standing within 75 feet of a drop box.
On Oct. 28, U.S. District Judge Michael Liburdi denied a request to block a poll-watching group from surveilling drop boxes citing First Amendment concerns. Three days later, the Department of Justice signaled its disapproval of the judge’s ruling in a statement of interest, stating that "The First Amendment does not protect individuals’ right to assemble to engage in voter intimidation or coercion.”
Judge John Tuchi for the United States District Court for the District of Arizona granted the motion for a preliminary injunction Friday and enjoined enforcement of the law pending resolution of the case on the merits, according to Ballard Spahr attorney Matthew E. Kelley, who represents an alliance of press groups in opposition to the law.
The motion filed Tuesday morning argues that the law, known as HB2319, is a content-based restriction on speech and would have a chilling effect not only on the First Amendment activities of visual journalists “whose job it is to document the newsworthy activities of public servants in public places” but would also affect the general public who “simply wants to record what law enforcement officers are doing."
There's no hesitancy among free press and media legal scholars who are asked whether the law is constitutional. There's consensus: It's not. They base their views on numerous rulings of federal appeals courts on the issue.
Arizona Gov. Douglas Ducey signed into law a bill that would make it illegal to photograph or record a police officer in public from a distance of eight feet without the officer’s permission.
On February 24th, the Arizona House of Representatives voted to advance a bill that would make it illegal to photograph or record a police officer in public from a distance of eight feet without his or her permission. House Bill 2319 says if an individual is asked by the police to quit filming but continues to do so would face a class 3 misdemeanor and up to 30 days in jail.
Arizona lawmakers are considering a bill, HB 2309, that would heighten the penalties for a number of charges associated with protests, and create a new charge for behavior deemed “violent or disorderly assembly.”