Voting rights organizations filed a lawsuit against a pro-Trump group to stop them from going door-todoor in Colorado looking for evidence to back voter fraud allegations. already been debunkedAnd rejected by courts.
The lawsuit alleges that the U.S. Election Integrity Plan — led by Shawn Smith, an ally of former Trump strategist Steve Bannon and MyPillow founder Mike Lindell — is sending armed members door-to-door in areas with large numbers of voters of color, questioning people about how they voted and taking photographs of their homes.
The lawsuit, which is backed by the state chapter of the NAACP, the League of Women Voters and Mi Familia Vota, alleges that the “voter intimidation” campaign violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, a post-Civil War law aimed at preventing white vigilantes from terrorizing Black people to stop them from voting.
The lawsuit cites “County & Local Organizing Playbook” used by the group, which instructs members to “undertake citizen audit activities to either refute or confirm serious allegations of election malfeasance” in order to “support future legal action.” The group, some of whose members are armed, has been going door-to-door in El Paso, Mesa and Weld counties in Colorado, using public voter lists to identify areas where they believe ballots were fraudulently cast, the Colorado Times RecorderReport last year. Jena Griswold (Chief of State for Colorado) received the alert. warned votersUnofficial canvassing efforts were made and residents were urged to report harassment or threats to local law enforcement agencies or the Justice Department.
“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 engaged in voter intimidation,” the lawsuit states. “USEIP’s public-facing actions are a clear signal to Colorado voters — especially voters of color — that to vote in an upcoming election means facing interrogation by potentially armed and threatening USEIP agents at their doorstep thereafter.”
The lawsuit claims that some members have worn “badges” and falsely accused voters of fraud.
“Sometimes armed and donning badges to present an appearance of government officiality, USEIP agents interrogate voters about their addresses, whether they participated in the 2020 election, and — if so — how they cast their vote,” the complaint says. “It is reported that multiple agents have claimed to be from ‘the county,’ and have, without any evidence, falsely accused the residents of casting fraudulent ballots.”
The voting rights groups say the group’s efforts to seek out areas where they believe voter fraud occurred has largely focused on high-density housing areas and communities experiencing a growth in the number of minority voters.
“No one should have to be afraid to go to the polls or fear that doing so will mean being threatened in their own homes,” Courtney Hostetler, senior counsel for Free Speech for People and one of the lawyers leading the lawsuit, said in a statement. “Free and fair elections can only occur when people know that they are able to safely vote without reprisal or intimidation.”
The group’s “playbook” thanks Lindell, a leading election conspiracy theorist. Smith, the group’s founder, attended Lindell’s election conspiracy-laden “symposium”Last year, Tina Peters, a former Colorado election clerk, was arrested in South Dakota. leaking sensitive voting system dataIt was published by QAnon conspiracy theories and right-wing websites. Griswold’s office said earlier this year that Smith had also convinced another election official, Elbert County Clerk and Recorder Dallas Schroeder, to make copies of his office’s hard drives that he later gave to “unauthorized people in violation of Election Rules.”
Shawn Smith was the head USEIP last month led a “lock her up” chant while discussing Griswold at a rally and said that “if you’re involved in election fraud, you deserve to hang.”
He can also seen in a videoA group of Trump supporters clashed with police at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. He was accompanied in his place by Ron Hanks (a Colorado state Representative), a Republican candidate to the U.S. Senate. Hanks has also made false election claims.
Smith is also the president of another “election integrity” group called Cause of America, also funded by Lindell, which Smith announced on Bannon’s “War Room” podcast.
USEIP appears to have fully embraced QAnon conspiracy theories. Its website and the first page of its “playbook” include the slogan “We Are the Plan,” frequently associated with QAnon believers. During a presentation by Sherronna Bishop, the former campaign manager for Rep. Lauren Boebert, USEIP leader Cory Anderson (who is also a member of the anti-government Three Percenter militia) described the briefing as “being red-pilled,” according to the Times Recorder. (This expression, originally taken from The Matrix, is a popular choice among QAnon supporters and other far right conspiracy theorists.
Smith was named in the lawsuit, along with Holly Kasun and Ashe Epp who were co-founders. at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
It alleges that their attempted canvassing for election fraud evidence had the “purpose and effect of intimidating Coloradans from voting, trying to vote, helping others to vote, supporting or advocating for certain political beliefs, or exercising the right to speak, peaceably assemble, or petition the government for redress of grievances, in violation of Section 11(b) of the Voting Rights Act.” The suit also accuses the group of violating a section of the Ku Klux Klan Act that bans “conspiracy to interfere with civil rights.”
“Sadly, efforts to intimidate voters are nothing new,” NAACP general counsel Janette McCarthy Wallace said in a statement. “The NAACP has a long and proud history of opposing those who would seek to thwart democracy. We could not sit idly by and allow voters to potentially be bullied out of exercising their rights.”
The lawsuit does not offer specific examples of voters being intimidated or harassed by armed canvassers, but last year USEIP leader Charity McPike urged armed members to provide “security” for the group.
“We are attempting to line up security. However, anyone who carries protection might want to let us know so we can offer your cell phone numbers to those who are concerned,” McPike said, according to Colorado Pols.
“No voter should ever feel threatened in the safety of their own homes,” Celina Stewart, League of Women Voters chief counsel, said in a statement. “The nefarious actions of the USEIP are a blatant form of voter intimidation used to target and with the intent to silence Colorado voters of color, which is in clear violation of the Voting Rights Act.”
The USEIP is also working with the Colorado Republican Party on its “Election Integrity Operations,” according to the Times Recorder. A USEIP member is in charge of the GOP’s program and has given joint presentations with Epp, the group’s co-founder. Heidi Ganahl, the leading Republican candidate to be Colorado governor. promoted the group during a recent event, declaring that they are “doing great things.”
USEIP did no respond to a request for comment. The group’s website says it plans to expand to other states, including Arizona, Georgia and New Hampshire. According to the website, conspiracy theorists from Utah calling themselves the Utah Voter Verification Project are already using its training materials. Salt Lake Tribune.
According to the report, Hurricane residents notified Washington County officials in December about the presence of members of the group who refused to identify themselves and showed up at their doors with personal information. The members also recorded voters without their consent.
“We can record anyone without telling them. We don’t need permission,” one unidentified trainer told the outlet. The group’s training manual also stressed that “you do not have to identify yourself at all.”
The Utah group seems to have set out to collect affidavits of voters who claim to have evidence of illegal voting. In the wake of Trump’s 2020 defeat, his legal team attempted to submit voter affidavits to prove their debunked allegations, but those efforts were almost entirely rejected by judges and discredited by election officials.
There is no evidence that voter fraud occurred in Utah, where Trump won by more 20 points. Republican Gov. Spencer Cox and Lieutenant Gov. Deidre Henderson condemned those who are spreading “misinformation” about the election and dismissed claims of fraud as “absolute falsehoods.”
Similar door-to-door audits have been attempted by other Trump supporters. Cyber Ninjas, the bankrupt company that led Arizona’s failed “forensic audit,” sought to send canvassers door-to-door in Maricopa County but ultimately relented after the Justice Department warnedThis would be against federal laws against voter intimidation.
Another group is the New Mexico Audit Force. sent its members door-to-door in heavily Republican Otero County, which had already spent $50,000 on an “audit” confirming that Trump had won the county by more than 25 points. Last Thursday, the House Oversight Committee announced a probe of the effort, warning that the audit “illegally interferes with Americans’ right to vote by spreading disinformation about elections and intimidating voters.”
USEIP may also have had difficulties vetting its volunteers. The group’s training manual says that the group intends to check volunteers’ social media and called on them for a “gut check,” saying leaders had “learned (roundaboutly) that there were a couple of people in our group, who were volunteering for our events, who had a criminal history of sexual misconduct,” and adding, “it’s unfortunate that we must check volunteers for pedophilic leanings.”