Lawsuit seeks to end group’s door-to-door voter fraud hunt

A coalition of civil rights and voting organizations invoked the 19th century Ku Klux Klan law in a lawsuit filed Wednesday seeking to stop a group of Donald Trump supporters from going door to door in the Colorado on the hunt for an already debunked voter fraud.

The US Election Integrity Plan lawsuit alleges the group’s activities include photographing voters’ homes and “door-to-door voter intimidation” in areas where large numbers of minorities live. The group was founded after Trump lost the 2020 election to Democrat Joe Biden and made false allegations of mass voter fraud.

Shawn Smith, a retired Air Force colonel who leads the group, did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent to Cause for America, a separate “election integrity” group he leads. USEIP does not have a phone number or email listed.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado on behalf of the NAACP state chapter, League of Women Voters and Mi Familia Vota.

The decision represents a high-profile push against a new method used by election deniers to try to advance claims of voter fraud that have been emphatically dismissed. Repeated audits and investigations — including by Trump’s own Justice Department — have found no significant fraud in the 2020 election, and Trump supporters have lost more than 50 lawsuits trying to overturn the vote. .

The lawsuit is based in part on the KKK law, which was passed after the Civil War to prevent white vigilantes from using violence and terror to stop black people from voting. The law has was recently cited in a lawsuit regarding the January 6 Capitol insurrection. Representative Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi, accused Trump of conspiring with far-right extremist groups involved in the storming of the US Capitol.

Civil rights and voting groups allege that USEIP members sometimes carry guns and badges while visiting voters’ homes, even though they do not work for the government. He cites no specific example.

“They send a very clear message that if you vote in Colorado in the future, you can expect an armed officer to show up at your door,” said Courtney Hostetler, an attorney for the nonprofit legal group. Free Speech for People, which filed the case.

USEIP credits Mike Lindell, the managing director of MyPillow and a major supporter of election deniers, in its organizing manual. Smith attended a meeting Lindell hosted on election conspiracy theories in August with Tina Peters, an employee from Mesa County in western Colorado. who was indicted by a grand jury on Wednesday for his alleged role in copying confidential election data that appeared on conspiracy websites after the event.

The Colorado secretary of state’s office said Smith was on the phone with a second county employee while he was making copies of information from his own electoral system and giving it to two unauthorized people to view. . Last month, at a gathering of election conspiracy theorists, in a discussion with Colorado’s Democratic Secretary of State, Smith said, “If you’re involved in voter fraud, then you deserve to be hanged.

In late November, Lindell hired Smith to lead Cause of America. In an interview on former Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon’s podcast, Smith said the new organization would “help coordinate citizen election integrity efforts across the country.”

Lindell did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

The lawsuit alleges that the US Election Integrity Plan targets high-density housing that is often full of minority voters who are more likely to vote Democratic.

“Sometimes armed and wearing badges to present an appearance of government officialdom, USEIP agents interview voters about their addresses, whether they participated in the 2020 elections and, if so, how they voted,” indicates the trial. “Several officers are reported to have claimed to be from the ‘County’ and, without any evidence, falsely accused the residents of fraudulent voting.”

The group says on its website that it plans to expand to other states like Arizona, Georgia and New Hampshire. His materials have been used by conspiracy theorists canvassing in Utah, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

“It’s extremely scary,” said Portia Prescott, president of the NAACP of Colorado, Wyoming and Montana. If the group knocks on someone’s door, she argued, “you feel like a target, they know how you vote. Will you vote next time? Probably not.”

About Jessica J. Bass

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