A watchdog is wary of a new soldier-to-poll worker group
Despite the many studies and court opinions that have determined voter fraud is incredibly rare in the United States, polls find that the majority of Republicans have cast doubt on the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. Many have expressed interest in watching over this year’s voting process in the wake of these doubts. One election watchdog expert, who worries that not everyone is interested in working the polls for the right reasons, joined All Things Considered to discuss another national group that was recruiting members to work the polls.
John Henry Smith first spoke with Travis Wilson of the recruitment group One More Mission. Their stated goal is to get military veterans, former law enforcement officers and ex-first responders to sign up as poll workers across America on Tuesday. Wilson didn’t know how many Connecticut residents volunteered for his group.
“A lot of us, you know, we took that oath to protect our Constitution and defend it to include the election. So they will volunteer, and they will become poll workers,” Wilson said of the effort. “And I assume that you know, within poll working is also the election official watchers, poll watchers, whatever you want to call them. They have to adhere to the rules of their state, their county.”
Connecticut election law also doesn’t allow poll watchers, only so-called “unofficial checkers” who are appointed by the local registrars of voters. Connecticut’s secretary of the state also notes there are several state and federal laws that ban voter intimidation. But Wilson emphasizes his group’s goal is to help with a national shortage of poll workers, not to intimidate.
“It even kind of ruffles my feathers a little to even think that anybody would be there in the capacity that they are to intimidate people,” Wilson said. “It doesn’t matter what side of the aisle you’re on. This is a nonpartisan solution to a problem. It’s nationwide. And we are, we are not there to strong-arm anybody at all. We were there to help and to assist those who need help at the election polls.”
However, when asked about reports that One More Mission is funded by noted election deniers, Wilson said he was in the dark.
“Those are questions that I do not know,” he said.
But Nick Penniman, founder of the election watchdog group called Issue One, has been following Wilson’s group and says it’s backed by several election deniers like Gen. Michael Flynn.
“I think that what is very likely is that the folks who are volunteering aren’t totally aware of the larger agenda of [the] Mike Flynns of the world, who are part of the ‘Stop the Steal’ movement, and believe that the last election was stolen. And believe that extreme measures might have to be taken in the future, to ensure victories for candidates that they believe in,” Penniman said.
But he said the recruitment effort itself to get help working the polls is not a problem at face value.
“There are gonna be people who will be volunteering, who will be part of the ‘Stop the Steal’ movement, who are preconditioned to believe that something is wrong. There are also election judges, who have been installed by Steve Bannon and Michael Flynn into various positions, who were also preconditioned to believe that something might be wrong or corrupt,” he warns.
He compared the idea of hunting for election fraud to ghost hunters.
“What is likely to happen is that you’re going to have a lot of people basically, who are walking into a big house who believe in ghosts. And so they’re going to hear little creaks in the floors and things like that. And they’re going to attribute them to ghosts, when in fact, it’s just a normal part of the election process,” Penniman said. “What this could lead to is a kind of gumming up of the works, and chaos and confusion and additional doubt with voters, about the efficacy and integrity of the outcome.”
Penniman said the group One More Mission looks great on its face as an effort to help with poll worker recruitment.
“There's been an exodus of poll workers in the last two years because of the ‘Stop the Steal’ crowd and the threats to poll workers, threats to their lives, threats to their families. So it’s great that people are volunteering, that they want to become a part of the process. Again, what I’m worried about are the folks behind the scenes,” he said.
But election officials can’t discredit an organization that recruits poll workers based on their ideas, he says, just force workers to comply with local election law.
“What really worries me, though, is that the folks who are the central part of the ‘Stop the Steal’ movement believe that the last election was stolen,” he said. “They believe it … despite 60 court cases that were launched by the Trump campaign, none of which ever went to trial, because they all lacked evidence.”
“When you have people who are recruiting people into poll worker positions, who don’t believe facts as established by the judicial branch of our government — and not just one case, 60 cases — I think we’ve got to seriously question the motives of why they’re doing what they’re doing.”