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ASPartOfMe
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07 Sep 2022, 8:31 pm

Michigan GOP leaders encourage rule breaking at poll worker training session

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The evening before Michigan's state primary, Wayne County GOP leaders held a Zoom training session for poll workers and partisan observers -- warning them about "bad stuff happening" during the election and encouraging them to ignore local election rules barring cell phones and pens from polling places and vote-counting centers.

"None of the constraints that they're putting on this are legal," former state senator Patrick Colbeck told trainees on the August 1 call.

As far as cell phones, "I would say maybe just hide it or something, and maybe hide a small pad and a small pen or something like that because you need to take accurate notes," Cheryl Costantino, the GOP county chairwoman and host of the call, told participants.

Some participants raised concerns about being tossed out if they broke the rules. "That's why you got to do it secretly," Costantino replied.

While volunteer partisan observers have always been trained by political parties and non-profit groups in Michigan, the Wayne County GOP had also invited poll workers -- people hired and paid by the local clerk's office. They are in charge of running the election, and their responsibilities can include checking voter IDs, counting ballots, and even securing voting equipment at the end of the day. Poll workers are required to engage in non-partisan training overseen by the local clerk and are only identified as Republicans for the purposes of making sure there is equal representation of both major parties working the election, according to the Michigan Bureau of Elections.

During the Wayne County training call, obtained by CNN, the presumption that Democrats cheat -- thus justifying Republican rule-breaking -- permeated the discussion. It offers a snapshot of one of the ways Trump-backing, MAGA-minded conspiracy theorists are intervening in the election process across the country, sometimes encouraging poll workers or volunteer observers to violate election rules in hopes of finding evidence that Democrats might be doing the same.

It's an approach election experts fear could spur chaos and conflict in November's mid-term elections and in 2024.
"There is no exception to following the laws; there is no 'two wrongs make a right,'" said Wendy Weiser, a vice president at The Brennan Center for Justice, which tracks potential insider threats to the election process. Weiser said the center is seeing a spread in efforts by election deniers to infiltrate and manipulate the voting and vote counting process.
"If poll workers are not committed to following the law, to following the directions of election officials, to protecting the integrity of the election process, they can do serious harm," Weiser said.

Like its counterparts in fellow battleground states Arizona and Pennsylvania, Michigan's Republican Party has conspiracy believers pushing for influence over the election process at all levels, from candidates for statewide office down to poll workers and observers. As CNN has previously reported, that's partly due to a strategy by Trump allies of ceaselessly recruiting conspiracy-minded MAGA volunteers for rank-and-file party positions.
Earlier this year, unsuccessful GOP gubernatorial candidate Ryan Kelley called on Michigan poll workers to unplug election equipment "if you see something you don't like happening." In June, Kelley was charged with trespassing and other crimes in connection with the January 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

he mounting efforts to influence poll workers have prompted concerns over election disruptions, forcing the state to establish a code of conduct for those individuals, said Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.

Poll workers who don't adhere to the rules will be removed "by the local clerk, if they violate the law ... or in any way interfere with the administration of fair and secure elections," Benson told CNN.

The GOP has "made a concerted effort to put election deniers in positions where they can gum up the works, afterward, if they don't win," said Jeff Timmer, former executive director of the Michigan Republican Party.

The training sessions are providing a thinly veiled, read-between-the-lines instructions that essentially show "people how to break the law without expressly telling them to break the law, in most cases," said Timmer, an advisor to the Lincoln Project, a political action committee founded in 2019 by Republicans and former Republicans opposed to Trump.

At the Wayne County election training session last month, Costantino and Colbeck said they were tracking scores of Democrats who Colbeck said "were trying to masquerade as Republicans" while signing up to work elections.  

Colbeck told participants, "We're going to have to keep our heads on a swivel and just start documenting irregularities."

Colbeck called on the trainees to try to prove his repeatedly debunked theory about vote machines and tabulators being connected to the internet by checking screens whenever possible for connectivity symbols.
Towards the end of the Zoom call, Costantino told the trainees, "So you are all, really, undercover agents. Congratulations. That's undercover training."

Approached by CNN at the Michigan Republican state convention, Costantino said comparing the poll workers to spies was just her way of reframing the training session and "make it more fun and interesting" -- with Michigan's open primary serving as a kind of dry run for the election cycle ahead.

Similar election-training efforts predicated on 2020 election conspiracies have been mounted by an array of national and state-level groups with innocuous names such as the Election Integrity Network, True the Vote, Clean Elections USA, and others, along with the Republican National Committee.

True the Vote, which has trained poll observers in various states, was a primary source for the thoroughly debunked film "2000 Mules," claiming that election fraud cost Trump the 2020 election. Clean Elections USA is organizing a multi-state effort to have observers watch drop-boxes this fall to deter supposed vote fraud.
The Election Integrity Network is a group organized by Cleta Mitchell, an attorney and Trump ally who has been among the most active promoters of election conspiracies. They have conducted events in Michigan and at least seven other states.

"We'll be able to make sure that there's another set of eyes going on, watching the ballots, watching the voting, watching the process -- knowing what's going on in the election offices," Mitchell told CNN.

Morrell, of The Elections Group nonprofit, said her organization sent a contractor to an election training in Pennsylvania led by the Election Integrity Network. The Wayne County training "sounds like the same sort of playbook," she said.

And fueling distrust in the election process is the ultimate goal, said Timmer, the former Michigan GOP executive director.

"Their plan is to be a wrench in the gears of democracy," he said of the Republican-led effort. "That's their motive. Whatever lipstick or qualifying words they put on this pig, that's what they intend to do, to cause chaos as the 2022 election unfolds, as a dress rehearsal for the even bigger election in 2024."


bolding=mine


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goldfish21
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07 Sep 2022, 9:16 pm

More of the same.. republicans whining about voter fraud and election interference while committing both acts themselves.

I wonder if they actually believe they're trying to ensure a secure election or if they Know they're just there to create doubt so trumpty dumpty can scream and cry and ask for audits while he shouts that he won the election? :?


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ASPartOfMe
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08 Sep 2022, 3:13 am

goldfish21 wrote:
More of the same.. republicans whining about voter fraud and election interference while committing both acts themselves.

I wonder if they actually believe they're trying to ensure a secure election or if they Know they're just there to create doubt so trumpty dumpty can scream and cry and ask for audits while he shouts that he won the election? :?

For the leaders to read the part I bolded in the OP. The ultimate goal is to rig the 2024 election so that Orban styled authoritarian gains power be it Trump or somebody else. That is what matters even if followers think they are being patriots by securing elections.


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08 Sep 2022, 5:11 am

There's a lot going on in Michigan with regards to the 2020 election - endless investigations, official and unofficial, keep uncovering disturbing glimpses of chicanery and potential fraud. They've tried to overturn it, but the courts won't hear it (this is not proof that the election was secure before anyone says so) and it wouldn't really do much good now if they did manage to decertify 2020. I suspect this is a case of once bitten, twice shy Republicans doing their level best to eliminate all fraud in the next election, fighting against some really strange Democrats who desire to keep elections as insecure as possible... for... uh ...no particular reason...


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kraftiekortie
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08 Sep 2022, 5:27 am

So….if Democrats are getting more votes than Republicans in Wayne County, an overwhelmingly Democratic county. this gives poll workers the right to deactivate voting machines because of their perception of fraud?

Where is the effin logic????