Audit “vigilante” groups accused of voter intimidation in armed door-to-door canvassing to find Big Lie
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The NAACP and League of Women Voters filed a lawsuit against armed political canvassers going door-to-door searching for voters who they claim cast fraudulent ballots in 2020.
According to the complaint (pdf), a group called the U.S. Election Integrity Plan (USEIP) has been sending “agents,” wearing badges and masquerading as official government employees, to Colorado homes to inquire about the resident’s voting history and sometimes accuse them of casting fake ballots.
During their door-to-door campaigns, USEIP agents take photos of voters’ residences, and the organization maintains a database of photos of voters’ residences. In order to threaten voters, in their own homes, with potentially violent confrontations, USEIP encourages its agents to carry weapons and has informed its canvassers that it is attempting to line up security for its door-to-door voter intimidation campaigns.
The coalition of voting rights groups asks the District Court of Colorado to declare the actions of USEIP and its leaders, who are linked to Steve Bannon and Mike Lindell, in violation of the Voting Rights Act and the Ku Klux Klan Act.
Defendants’ objectives are clear. By planning to, threatening to, and actually deploying armed agents to knock on doors throughout the state of Colorado, USEIP is engaging in voter intimidation. USEIP’s actions not only intimidate voters who cast ballots in the November 2020 election, but also intimidate future eligible voters, dissuading both groups from exercising their constitutional right to vote…this fear is even more acute for Black and Latino communities who have, historically, faced extensive violence and intimidation efforts, often instigated by armed individuals, to prevent their free exercise of the franchise.
The House Oversight Committee and Subcommittee on Civil Rights announced last week that it is opening an investigation into a New Mexico group also going door-to-door looking for voter fraud “suspects.” Unlike in Colorado, however, Otero County officially contracted this cadre of conspiracists to assess the accuracy of voter registration databases on its behalf.
Otero County is located in the far south of the state, along the border of Texas. Its 68,000 residents, the majority White, voted for Donald Trump in 2020 by a 62% to 36% margin. Otero commissioners spent almost $50,000 on hiring a company called EchoMail to “audit” their county’s 2020 election results. According to the contract obtained by the House Committees, this included a canvass conducted by “volunteers under the direction of New Mexico Audit Force (‘Volunteers’) with guidance from EchoMail.”
The New Mexico Audit Force is made up of members of a far-right Telegram group that went door-to-door posing as county employees under the guise of verifying voter registration data. In reality, the group’s leaders have said the goal of the canvass is to “pinpoint at least a pretty small list of suspects and then hand it over for criminal prosecution from there,” and have stated: “I want arrests, I want prosecutions, I want firing squads.”
“The Committee is deeply concerned that EchoMail’s “canvass” of Otero County residents may lead to voter intimidation in violation of Section 11(b),” the House wrote in a letter (pdf) to EchoMail’s CEO. “Your documented history of trafficking in destructive election conspiracy theories, along with the explicit plans of the leaders of the New Mexico Audit Force to use the audit to “pinpoint” a “list of suspects” and “hand it over for criminal prosecution,” clearly presents a serious risk that you plan to intimidate qualified voters and deter them from seeking to vote in the future.”
Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver and Attorney General Hector Balderas issued a written advisory that encouraged residents to report voter harassment or intimidation.
Part of a pattern
Colorado and New Mexico are not alone in experiencing a wave of audit vigilante groups. Last year, a group connected to USEIP called the Utah Voter Verification Project went door-to-door attempting to identify instances of “illegal ballots.” Residents in Pennsylvania reported a similar effort called Audit the Vote PA Lancaster, also organized on Telegram. As did Michigan, Florida, and North Carolina.