Sheriff Penzone welcomes citizen input, but not interference during election season

Oct 13, 2022, 1:45 PM
(Facebook Photo/Maricopa County Sheriff's Office)...
(Facebook Photo/Maricopa County Sheriff's Office)
(Facebook Photo/Maricopa County Sheriff's Office)

PHOENIX – If local ballot drop boxes are going to be under surveillance from organized private citizens, Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone has a piece of advice for would-be watchers: watch your step.

“I’m all for citizen involvement and investment and trying to keep the community safe,” Penzone told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News on Thursday.

“But make sure you understand what your actions are and [what] the ramifications to your actions are.”

Election officials around the country are seeing extremist groups encouraging supporters to keep watch over ballot drop-off locations, including the Yavapai County Preparedness Team, whose YouTube channel page reads: “We have operated for five years in Yavapai County as Oath Keepers of Yavapai County.”

The preparedness team’s Lions of Liberty did something similar ahead of the August primary, calling the campaign Operation Drop Box.

Early voting is underway in Arizona for the Nov. 8 general election.

“Now, if you’re watching the polls because you want to be acting as the eyes and ears of law enforcement should there be a problem and you’re going to report it to us to act on, then that’s great,” Penzone said.

“But if you’re going to take the law into your own hands and act when you don’t really have the authority or the knowledge to determine if a law is [being broken], and what your authority is acting on it, you’re going to become someone who’s in the space of potentially committing a crime.”

Penzone said before the primary that deputies on duty at polling location would not tolerate disruptions to the voting process.

The same will hold true next month, he said.

“There are folks, unfortunately, who feel force and violence is an option. When it comes to this, we’re not going to be tolerant of that so we have to meet, I know this sounds really aggressive, but meet force with force,” Penzone said.

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Sheriff Penzone welcomes citizen input, but not interference during election season