“Inside the Election Denial Groups Planning to Disrupt November”


As the most consequential presidential election in a generation looms in the United States, get-out-the-vote efforts across the country are more important than ever. But multiple far-right activist groups with ties to former president Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee are mobilizing their supporters in earnest, drawing on one baseline belief: Elections in the US are rigged, and citizens need to do something about it.

All the evidence states otherwise. But in recent weeks, these groups have held training sessions about how to organize on a hyperlocal level to monitor polling places and drop boxes, challenge voter registrations en masse, and intimidate and harass voters and election officials. And some are preparing to roll out new technology to fast-track all of these efforts: One of the groups claims they’re launching a new platform for checking voter rolls that contains billions of “data elements” on every single US citizen.

These groups could have a major impact on the 2024 election. In addition to disenfranchising voters and putting additional pressure on already overstretched election offices, they could convince more and more people that US elections are fraudulent.

Catherine Engelbrecht and her organization True the Vote have effectively tried to disenfranchise voters for more than a decade by claiming that voter rolls are filled with phony voter registrations. Engelbrecht’s rhetoric was given an unprecedented boost in the wake of 2020, when Trump and other elected officials mainstreamed conspiracies that the elections had been rigged in favor of Democrats. Hundreds of national and local election denial groups were formed, and many of them amassed huge followings on social media platforms like Telegram. As the 2024 presidential election looms, they are ramping up efforts to do it again.

“It could be exponentially worse than what we saw in 2020, but we’re going to be awake, we’re going to be engaged, we are going to understand the process, and we’re going to have options to continue to hold to those truths,” Engelbrecht said during a March webinar titled “Election Integrity Team Building 101.” “We’re not going to back down. There’s too much to lose.”

The hour-long presentation was delivered from a hotel room in Denver, with Engelbrecht laying out what could sound like a relatively benign plan to monitor elections and check voter rolls. “Keep a soft heart, keep a kind word in your mouth, approach people irrespective of party with love. You will find that things will be much better if that is the approach that is taken,” Engelbrecht said. The session, she said, was overbooked.’

Engelbrecht then began speaking about elections being “perilously close to cracking in half,” and her presentation became a highlight reel of election conspiracies, references to crystals, Christian nationalist rhetoric, and militaristic jargon. “If this republic’s to be saved, it’s because [of] people like all of you that are on this webinar right now. There are some bad actors out there and we live in particularly chaotic and caustic times,” said Engelbrecht. “If we wait on somebody to do something, we will watch freedom slip away on our watch. That’s how close we are.”

“These groups are trying to lay the groundwork to potentially make later claims about the election that very well may be false. But the more chaos that can be caused along the way will give more fodder to that disinformation,” Andrew Garber, an expert at the Brennan Center for Justice’s Voting Rights and Elections Program, tells WIRED. “It’s not just bad if there’s a mass voter challenge because people might get kicked off the rolls. It’s also bad if people then take that challenge and say, ‘See, look at all these ineligible voters,’ when in fact that’s not the case.”…

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