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Arizona Democrats sue GOP, Donald Trump campaign claiming voter suppression

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, file)

PHOENIX — The Arizona Democratic Party filed a lawsuit Monday alleging the state Republican Party and Donald Trump’s campaign are attempting to suppress voters.

The lawsuit alleges that both the GOP and Trump’s campaign are suppressing voters, particularly those in minority areas, by encouraging groups of supporters to keep an eye on polling places.

Trump has repeatedly called for his supporters to keep a close watch over voting centers to prevent fraud. The suit claims that, when combined with Trump’s claims the race is rigged, the atmosphere for voter intimidation is ripe.

“I hope you people can … not just vote on the 8th, [but] go around and look and watch other polling places and make sure that it’s 100-percent fine,” Trump said at an Aug. 12 rally in Pennsylvania. “We’re going to watch Pennsylvania — go down to certain areas and watch and study — [and] make sure other people don’t come in and vote five times.

Trump’s official campaign website has a registry for supporters to sign up to be official poll watchers. The Democrats allege Trump has called for those poll watchers to essentially act as law enforcement.

An unidentified campaign official told Bloomberg News on Thursday that the campaign has “three major voter suppression operations under way” to suppress idealistic white liberals, young women and African-Americans. All are believed to be key demographics for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

The official did not tell Bloomberg News if those actions are occurring specifically in Arizona.

The suit also named political consultant Roger J. Stone Jr. as a defendant. Stone is the head of a super PAC called Stop the Steal, which said its goal is to put an end to voter fraud.

Stop the Steal encouraged pollwatchers to wear red shirts on Election Day, something the lawsuit called an act to menace voters. The super PAC — which promises to conduct exit polls, recruit trained poll watchers and demand election machines be tested, among other things — is active in Arizona.

Stone served as an advisor to former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean, whose 1981 campaign promoted the Ballot Security Task Force to prevent voter fraud, particularly in Democratic areas of the state. The task force led to the Republican Party signing a decree stating it would not attempt to suppress Democratic voters.

Stone also works with Vote Protectors, another group linked to Trump that has been accused of intimidating voters. A Google search for the organization provided redirected links to Stop the Steal.

Other organizations are also encouraging people to keep an eye on Arizona voting centers. Arizona Commission for Election Accountability President Samantha Pstross said about 105 people have volunteered to monitor 120 sites in Maricopa and Pima counties but that more are needed.

Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan said earlier this month that the state has numerous safeguards in place to prevent voter fraud, but that very few cases are reported each year.

One representative from the Republican Party responded to the suit.

“Obviously this is outrageous, the claims made are ridiculous and it’s clearly a desperate attempt to distract attention away from Hillary Clinton’s latest email scandal which has now resurfaced,” said Timothy La Sota, who is in the general council for the Republican Party. “This isn’t the first time the Democrats have used the legal process to try to bolster their candidates.”

KTAR’s Kaely Monahan contributed to this report.

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