2020 election activists mobilize ahead of midterms

Elections 2022

FILE – A woman drops a ballot into a drop box while casting her vote during Maryland’s primary election, Tuesday, July 19, 2022, in Baltimore. Whether a state requires voters to request an absentee ballot or participates in universal mail-in voting, all ballots cast by mail or dropped off at a drop box are vetted to ensure their legitimacy.(AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

(NewsNation) — Unfounded claims of widespread election fraud advanced by former President Donald Trump and his allies have inspired a groundswell of election activists to oversee the 2022 midterms.

In a recent interview on former White House strategist Steve Bannon’s podcast, prominent GOP attorney and conservative activist Cleta Mitchell said her organization has trained, and intends to deploy, more than 20,000 people to monitor the upcoming midterm elections across the country.

Mitchell, who assisted the former president in his failed effort to overturn the 2020 election, pushed back against critics of the training who she said accused her of “destroying democracy.”

“We have people trained in the law so that they can then observe and document and report when things are not being conducted according to the law,” Mitchell said. “The political left, she added, “are totally traumatized by the fact that we are going to be watching.”

Later in the interview, Mitchell put out a call to action, asking for volunteers to help oversee elections in battleground areas including Maricopa County, Arizona and DeKalb County, Georgia.

election ‘Watchdogs’ mobilizing

Both political parties have long employed poll watchers, but the tactics displayed in recent months suggest the heightened level of scrutiny is becoming increasingly disruptive.

In June, activists in South Carolina showed up at polling places in Charleston and demanded to inspect election equipment. When their requests were denied, they returned with police officers to file reports about broken or missing seals on the machines, The New York Times reported. It was later determined there were no broken or missing seals.

Poll workers across the country have also received death threats for doing their jobs.

In some cases, activists have gone to extreme lengths in an effort to prove election fraud.

In April, a Reuters investigation identified eight locales where pro-Trump activists had breached, or tried to breach, voting systems.

Concerns around election integrity have even spurred new legislation in some states.

In August, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced criminal charges against 20 people for illegally voting in 2020. The arrests came just months after DeSantis signed a bill creating a police force dedicated to investigating voter fraud and other election crimes.

In body-worn camera footage obtained by the Tampa Bay Times this week, local authorities can be seen making those arrests. The people accused of voting illegally appear visibly confused as they are handcuffed. One man said the DMV encouraged him to register despite the fact he had previously been convicted of a felony.

All of those arrested were barred from voting because they had been previously convicted of murder or sex offenses, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

The 20 people were among more than 11 million Florida voters who cast ballots in the 2020 election.

voter fraud is rare

Despite Trump’s claims to the contrary, voter fraud is exceedingly rare and has never been observed at a level significant enough to swing a national election.

An analysis of the 2016 election by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU found just 30 incidents of suspected noncitizen voting across a sample of jurisdictions that oversaw more than 23.5 million votes.

Other concerns about voter-impersonation fraud, wherein an ineligible voter pretends to be an eligible voter, also appear unwarranted. A Brennan Center report determined that Americans are more likely to be struck by lightning than to commit voter-impersonation fraud.

There is no evidence of widespread fraud or tampering with election equipment that could have affected the outcome of the 2020 election. Now-President Joe Biden won the popular vote by more than 7 million ballots and earned 306 electoral votes compared to Trump’s 232 electoral votes.

Following the 2020 election, Trump’s legal team and Republican allies filed more than 60 lawsuits, none of which revealed widespread voter fraud.

An Associated Press investigation of the 2020 presidential election found fewer than 475 potential cases of voter fraud out of 25.5 million ballots cast in the six states where Trump and his allies disputed his loss.

Despite the evidence, many people still question the legitimacy of Biden’s victory.

About 63% of Americans believe Biden won the 2020 election fair and square, compared to 29% who believe he won due to voter fraud, according to a recent Monmouth University poll. The poll found six in 10 Republicans believe Biden won because of voter fraud.

Republican candidates continue to point out that Trump was not the first politician to question the integrity of his election. Stacey Abrams, the current Democratic candidate for Georgia governor, insisted that she won her election against now-Gov. Brian Kemp in 2018.

Abrams lost the vote in 2018 by more than 50,000 votes.

Last month, a federal judge ruled that Georgia’s election law does not violate voters’ constitutional rights after a group associated with Abrams filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s rules.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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