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‘Flooding the Zone’: Trump Allies Push for Election Denier ‘Observers’

The former chief of staff for one-term United States President Donald Trump is at the head of the group funding the efforts of right-wing “election watchers,” who have opted to base their campaign on Trump’s lie that he did not really lose the 2020 presidential election (he did).

The involvement of Mark Meadows with the “Election Integrity Network” is buried deep in a Reuters story about ongoing training for these operatives:

The project is funded by the Conservative Partnership Institute, a Washington nonprofit organization with deep ties to Trump’s political network. Mark Meadows, Trump’s former chief of staff, is listed as the organization’s “senior partner.” Trump’s political action committee, Save America, gave the group $1 million in 2021, campaign finance records show.

The story was published not long prior to testimony from White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson regarding an encounter between herself, Meadows, and Trump on the White House grounds in December 2020, after the latter lost the election to Democratic then-nominee Joe Biden.

Hutchinson testified to the House committee investigating the January 2021 coup attempt by Trump’s supporters that he was “just raging” after the Supreme Court neglected to hear a lawsuit filed in Texas seeking to overturn the outcome.

“He had said something to the effect of, ‘I don’t want people to know we lost, Mark. This is embarrassing. Figure it out. We need to figure it out. I don’t want people to know that we lost,'” Hutchinson recalled in her testimony.

Despite claims that these “observers” are non-partisan and peaceful, at least one group of them harassed officials in a rural North Carolina county during the May 2022 primary elections:

Observers demanded to inspect voting machine tabulators in violation of state election laws. Others repeatedly grilled poll workers or demanded to take pictures inside voting stations. When told to stop, they said they were following guidance from a Republican Party lawyer, said Henderson County Election Director Karen Hebb.

“It was stressful,” she said. “If we refused to let the observers do something, they said you know you can be sued if you don’t allow us.”

She contacted the sheriff’s department after an observer trailed a poll worker’s car from a polling site to the election board. She said the sheriff’s office told her no laws had been broken.

Reuters’ story on Meadow’s link to the EIP came a week after Media Matters reported that another Trump ally, Steve Bannon, claimed to have “multiples of 11,000” people signed up to work in their local elections.

“You can sit there and you could pull your hair out, but, no, we are flooding the zone with poll workers, poll watchers, election judges, people in the room,” Bannon said on his online show. “Not just outside the room, outside the room is, I’m not saying performative, or for optics, but it’s inside the room that counts and that’s where, somebody said the other day 11,000.”

Bannon, a former adviser to Trump, had described the push for election deniers to work locally as a “call to arms.”

ProPublica reported in September 2022 that the influx of far-right true believers into election offices included people that participated in the coup attempt at the United States Capitol on January 6 2021:

Some of the new precinct officers were in the crowd that marched to the Capitol on Jan. 6, according to interviews and social media posts; one Texas precinct chair was arrested for assaulting police in Washington. He pleaded not guilty. Many of the new activists have said publicly that they support QAnon, the online conspiracy theory that believes Trump was working to root out a global child sex trafficking ring. Organizers of the movement have encouraged supporters to bring weapons to demonstrations. In Las Vegas and Savannah, Georgia, newcomers were so disruptive that they shut down leadership elections.

According to Reuters, the “Election Integrity Network” has recruited operatives in states including Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.