Constitutional sheriffs plot 2022 election ‘monitoring’ and interference
“The Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA) is calling upon all Americans and law enforcement nationwide to come together in pursuit of the truth regarding the 2020 election. Considering the persistent allegations of election fraud since even before the 2020 elections began, and as a response to the perpetual polarizing effect this has had on the American people, the CSPOA would like to put this issue to rest. Our constitutional republic and peaceful future as a free people absolutely depend on it. In the opinion of the CSPOA, there is very compelling physical evidence presented by truethevote.org in the movie ‘2000 Mules’ produced by Dinesh D’Souza.”
The Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA) released this call to arms in early 2022, roughly a year and a half after President Trump definitively lost the election. The CSPOA is an organization of local police officials who believe that county sheriffs are the ultimate law enforcement authority in the U.S. They call themselves constitutional or sovereign sheriffs and contend that it is their duty to defy or disregard laws they regard as unconstitutional.
ADL: The Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA) is an anti-government extremist group whose primary purpose is to recruit sheriffs into the anti-government “patriot” movement… The central tenet of CSPOA, borrowed from the anti-government extremist sovereign citizen movement, is that the county sheriff is the ultimate authority in the county, able to halt enforcement of any federal or state law or measure they deem unconstitutional.
CSPOA was founded in 2011 by Richard Mack, a former sheriff of Graham County, Arizona, an ally of Cliven Bundy, and a member of the board of directors of the Oath Keepers. Mack gained prominence when he sued the federal government in the 1990s over the constitutionality of gun control legislation called the Brady Law. Backed by the NRA, his lawsuit reached the Supreme Court, which, in 1997, ruled that state and local law enforcement officials cannot be required to perform background checks on potential gun owners (Printz v. United States).
Using his former position as a sheriff, Mack targeted the 3,100 sheriffs in the U.S., combining sovereign citizen messaging with Oath Keepers militancy to create an organization with hundreds of law enforcement and thousands of civilian members.
ADL: In 2009, Mack published his pamphlet, “County Sheriff: America’s Last Hope,” which promoted his thesis that the county sheriff was the “last line of defense” for the preservation of liberty, that the sheriff had the power to oppose any perceived “tyranny” (including a federal or state law) in their jurisdiction and that the sheriff even has the power to call out the militia to support their efforts.
At first, their rallying cry was opposing gun control measures in the wake of the Aurora theater and Sandy Hook shootings. Sometimes this took the form of letter-writing campaigns to lawmakers declaring their refusal to enforce any gun restrictions under consideration. Other times, these sheriffs took direct action. In 2013, for example, self-described constitutional sheriff Nick Finch, of Liberty County, Florida, ordered a man arrested for illegally carrying a concealed firearm released from jail. Finch said he freed the man, Floyd Parrish, because he believed the Second Amendment trumped Florida gun laws. Parrish was later arrested for second-degree murder with a firearm and Finch was acquitted by a jury of misconduct.
With the rise of the coronavirus pandemic came a new state power for constitutional sheriffs to defy: disease mitigation and prevention measures. Consider Klickitat County Sheriff Bob Songer, of Washington, who publicly challenged Gov. Jay Inslee’s (D) stay-at-home orders and refused to enforce any pandemic-focused restrictions. “No Governor’s proclamations or orders can override your liberties without violating your Constitutional Rights even during a crisis,” Songer wrote in a message to other Washington state sheriffs.
Klickitat County Sheriff Bob Songer said he would “arrest, detain and recommend prosecution” of any elected official or government workers who would try to enforce future public health guidances, like mask mandates or social distancing.
Songer said he took an oath to the “Supreme Judge of the Universe” as sheriff, a statement he defended by asserting the constitutions of Washington state and the United States are built on Christianity.
“There has been a coordinated and constant effort by the media and some government agencies to justify the suspension or denial of God-given, constitutionally protected rights under a plea of emergency,” he wrote June 17 on Facebook.
CSPOA’s newest crusade is pushing Donald Trump’s false claims about widespread voting fraud and organizing to monitor this year’s elections.
At a secretive meeting last month, CSPOA announced it had joined with another Arizona-based law enforcement group called Protect America Now, led by Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb, and Texas-based True the Vote, which helped spread Trump’s voter fraud claims. Lamb, a regular presence on Fox News and NewsMax, lionizes local law enforcement as the last line of defense against tyranny, yet openly campaigns against democratic elections like the 2020 presidential election.
“We’re gonna make sure that we have election integrity this year,” Lamb declared. “Sheriffs are going to enforce the law. This is about the rule of law. It is against the law to violate elections laws—and that’s a novel idea, we’re going to hold you accountable for that. We will not let happen what happened in 2020.”
Part of the coalition’s “election integrity” plan is to encourage sheriff deputies to patrol polling sites and ballot drop boxes.
In addition to grants meant to help sheriffs conduct surveillance of drop boxes, the group said it aims to provide sheriffs with “artificial intelligence” software to assist in analyzing the video they collect. True the Vote also plans to set up hotlines to alert sheriffs to suspicious activity at polling stations and ballot drop boxes.
Some sheriffs are taking the ‘voter fraud’ crusade farther than others. Barry County (Michigan) Sheriff Dar Leaf opened a voter fraud investigation in July 2021, sending a private investigator to question election clerks on “a couple little quirks” in the 2020 presidential election data.
Leaf previously said the voter fraud investigation was launched after the retired sergeant presented him with documents from Michael Lindell, the CEO of MyPillow, and his attorneys in Michigan that mentioned Barry County… “We had a legitimate complaint come in. There’s a lot of questions on Michigan audits. If anything it [the investigation] might give them more confidence in the election,” Leaf told News Channel 3.
Leaf, it turns out, was downplaying his efforts to investigate what auditors had already proven to be a “fair, secure, and accurate” election. According to a Reuters investigation, Leaf sought warrants to seize vote tabulators and various election records from the offices of the Barry County and Woodland Township clerks in an effort to prove former President Donald Trump’s claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election. Barry County Prosecuting Attorney Julie Nakfoor Pratt declined to endorse Leaf’s warrants “because she felt the sheriff lacked sufficient evidence to support his suspicions that the machines were rigged.”
However, Leaf was successful in his attempts to seize at least three counties’ voting machines—and he is under state investigation for illegally accessing the devices. State Attorney General Dana Nessel sought and obtained a special prosecutor to consider bringing criminal charges against Leaf and others involved in his plot, including a Republican running for attorney general and a state representative.
Barry County, home to over 62,000 people, voted for Trump 65% to 32%. Yet, Leaf and other Republicans continue to push the lie that election regularities in the county contributed to Trump’s nationwide loss.
In 2016, Leaf was named “2016 Sheriff of the Year” by CSPOA.
Johnson County is the largest county in Kansas, with a population over 609,000. It is under the purview of a constitutional sheriff named Calvin Hayden, who—like Dar Leaf—is conducting a nebulous investigation of claimed election irregularities during the 2020 election.
“We’ve been educating ourselves about elections,” Hayden said at the CSPOA conference in July. “I’ve sent my detectives through — I’ve got a cyber guy. I sent him through to start evaluating what’s going on with the machines.”
Exactly what Hayden is investigating, though, is unclear. When local media requested records related to the taxpayer-funded probe under the Kansas Open Records Act, Hayden denied the request, claiming that the records were protected as part of a “criminal investigation.”
Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab contests that there is any evidence of criminality to investigate in the first place. Schwab’s office has conducted more than 300 election audits, hand counting each precinct and matching the results tabulated after the election. “I mean where are you finding fraud?” Schwab asked. “You’re finding accusations, but the math shows that the elections are secure.”
What little we do know is that Hayden is involving himself in not just past elections, but the administration of future elections as well:
Johnson County Sheriff Calvin Hayden questioned county election officials at a private meeting earlier this month about why ballot drop boxes were available at public libraries in the 2020 election, and asked whether drop boxes would be eliminated in future elections.
At that meeting, held on July 5, a Hayden staffer also requested that sheriff’s deputies be present at the Johnson County Election Office when ballots were counted at upcoming elections.
And Hayden offered to have his staff drive in unmarked vehicles to pick up ballots from ballot drop boxes.
Hayden’s requests so alarmed the county’s chief legal counsel, Peg Trent, that she documented her misgivings in a memo. “My concern is that these requests give the appearance that the Sheriff’s office is attempting to interfere with an election and to direct a duly authorized election official as to how an election will be conducted,” Trent wrote.
Johnson County was one of only five (all in the Kansas City-Topeka area) that Biden won in Kansas. Trump carried the state 56% to 41%.