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Leaked Tapes Reveal GOP’s Plan to Train Right-Wing Operatives to Be Poll Workers

The plan would create a network of poll workers and attorneys working behind the scenes to overturn elections.

Election workers open ballots in preparation for scanning at the Dekalb County Voter Registration and Elections Office in Decatur, Georgia, on Monday, November 2, 2020.

The Republican Party is hatching a plan to infiltrate polling places using GOP-trained operatives and to create an “army” of right-wing lawyers in order to make it easier for the party to challenge and overturn election results, newly leaked video recordings reveal.

According to an outline of the plan by a Michigan-based Republican National Committee (RNC) staffer, the party is hoping to create an online database to help build a network of Republican-friendly lawyers and poll workers that can work in tandem to challenge election results at polling places in Democratic-majority locations, Politico reports. By installing trained GOP operatives as poll workers, the party can get more access to ballots and power to overturn elections, party members say.

“Being a poll worker, you just have so many more rights and things you can do to stop something than [as] a poll challenger,” Michigan RNC election director Matthew Seifried said in a recorded meeting with GOP activists last November. Ensuring that GOP operatives take on roles as official poll workers is key to the plan, he said.

The party has been crafting this plan for months, according to Politico, which obtained tapes recorded between the summer of 2021 and May of this year. An RNC spokesperson told the publication that the goal is to “even [the] playing field” in traditionally Democratic-leaning areas — all while the Republican Party works to erode voting rights and potentially overturn election results entirely.

The plan is an extension of the party’s goal of biasing elections toward Republicans after Donald Trump lied about the 2020 presidential election being affected by widespread voter fraud — even as Republican voters move on from the 2020 election. If successful, it would operate at a less visible and less transparent level than moves like voter suppression bills, which state legislators have been passing en masse.

In order to win those legal battles, party operatives say, Republicans will have to amass a huge number of sympathetic lawyers. “It’s going to be an army” of lawyers to back up the poll workers, Seifried said at a training session in October, appearing to acknowledge that the party will have to go through extralegal or otherwise legally intricate means to obtain the results Republicans want. “We’re going to have more lawyers than we’ve ever recruited, because let’s be honest, that’s where it’s going to be fought, right?”

Most states have requirements for the partisan makeup of poll workers to be balanced in hopes of protecting elections from bias. But Republicans have been attacking elections at every level, working to pass legislation to bias election officials toward the right while waging loud and violent attacks on poll workers. This could have a chilling effect on Democratic poll workers’ ability to help run elections — indeed, in some places, it has already led to the ousting of Democratic election officials.

If the party successfully recruits poll workers to contest votes, and those contests work, it could essentially lead to bottom-up local coups at a scale that may be difficult for Democrats to combat.

Republicans have already reached their recruiting goal for the plan, with over 5,600 people having signed up to be poll workers since the winter. Sefried has submitted 850 of these people to Detroit election officials. Conservative activists have also been holding trainings in multiple states, meeting with activists in hopes of compiling a list of district attorneys who would be sympathetic to Republican election challenges.

“Remember, guys, we’re trying to build out a nationwide district attorney network. Your local district attorney, as we always say, is more powerful than your congressman,” said Tim Griffin, legal counsel to the Amistad Project, which Trump’s former lawyer Rudy Giuliani once identified as a “partner” to Trump’s lawsuits over the 2020 election, in a training. “They’re the ones that can seat a grand jury. They’re the ones that can start an investigation, issue subpoenas, make sure that records are retained, etc.”

Republicans have also been using other covert strategies to win votes. As the American Prospect reports, the RNC has been setting up local centers aimed at swaying poor and non-white voters — groups that the Democratic Party establishment often take for granted — toward Republicans, even as politicians in the party embrace violent white supremacist ideologies.

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