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Anti-immigrant activists accused of voter harassment

Volunteer election monitors say three men armed with a video camera and a gun were intimidating voters at various polling stations throughout Tucson during voting on Tuesday.

From about 9:45 a.m. to noon, the men approached Hispanic voters as they attempted to enter Iglesia Bautista Kairos, 4502 S. 12th Ave. in precinct 25, said Diego Bernal, a lawyer with the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund.

One of the men would approach the voters with a clipboard, while another would film the encounter, Bernal said.

A third man, wearing an American Flag T-shirt and camouflage shorts, stood nearby with his hand on a handgun in a holster strapped around his hips, he said.

One of the people who was stopped by the group told Bernal they had information about the English only proposition on their clipboard, Bernal said.

“It’s pure, old-fashioned voter intimidation,” he said. “If shoving a videotape in your face while someone with a gun stands next to you isn’t intimidation, I don’t know what is.”

Kat Rodriguez of Derechos Humanos, who was also acting as an election observer at Iglesia Bautista, identified two of the three men as Roy Warden and Russ Dove, two anti-immigrant activists.

Warden could not be reached for comment, but in a mass email he acknowledged being at the polling site to “monitor illegal Mexicans voting in the Midterm elections.”

Bernal reported the incident to the FBI.

The agency’s spokesperson, Deb McCarley, said FBI would not comment on any investigations involving allegations of voter intimidation until after polls closed Tuesday.

“Obviously we do not want to do anything that could impact any type of voter’s decision,” she said.

Wyn Hornbuckle, spokesman with the Arizona U.S. Attorney’s Office, said the office has received some isolated reports of voter intimidation and other issues, such as voter fraud. However, he said, it would be premature to talk about those reports.

“The U.S. Attorney continues to monitor the situation and will prosecute any violation of criminal law if such violation exists,” he said.

Bernal is a full-time lawyer with MALDEF in San Antonio and came to Tucson to monitor the impacts of Proposition 200, which established strict identification requirements to vote.

He did not expect to be monitoring what looked like voter intimidation incidents, and refrained from saying anything to the men filming voters.

“They tried to talk to us once but I instructed volunteers not to talk to them,” he said. “I was not here to have a face-off with these men.”

Hornbuckle added that voters who experienced any problems during the election are encouraged to call the following numbers:

● The U.S. Attorney’s Office at (602)514-7756 or (602)514-7624.

● The FBI at (602)279-5511.

● The Civil Rights Division’s Voting Section in Washington at 1(800)253-3931 or 1(202)307-2767.

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