(Bloomberg) -- Activists whose candidates were defeated in recent US primary elections have made baseless claims of voter fraud, filed lawsuits to bar certification of the results, staged protests and demanded recounts and audits.
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Now, they’re going door-to-door to challenge individual voters.
Anti-abortion activist Mark Gietzen has said he believes the 18-point defeat in early August of a ballot measure to ban abortion in Kansas was due to fraudulent voting. A partial recount confirmed the results, but Gietzen is now seeking to force a statewide recount.
Gietzen acknowledged to the Kansas City Star that the second recount was unlikely to change the outcome of the election, but said it was part of an effort to search for fraud.
But now Gietzen and his allies will be confronting voters at home in Kansas. They say their goal to find voters who don’t live at the address or say they didn’t cast a ballot under their name.
The practice of door-knocking in search of voter fraud, which began in the 2020 election, is ripe for disastrous problems, including violating voter intimidation laws. Elections specialists say it’s an unreliable way to audit actual votes and some voters will feel suspicious or defensive. And in some cases, the activists are allegedly wearing clothing or badges that look enough like government uniforms as to be deceiving.
Supporters of former President Donald Trump and other failed Republican candidates in Arizona, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Nebraska and Utah conducted door-to-door canvasses in 2020.
Jennifer Morrell, a nationally recognized expert on elections audits, said that while it’s common for advocacy groups and campaigns to go door-to-door seeking to help people register and cast a ballot, showing up after the election can feel intimidating, especially if canvassers are poorly trained or ask invasive questions.
“This just feels like a big hot mess,” she said.
Elections clerks have also reported receiving complaints that some of the door-knockers have gone beyond asking if people voted to press them on how they voted.
In Colorado, the US Election Integrity Plan, a group that was founded after the 2020 election in response to claims of voter fraud, faces a lawsuit from three civic groups who claim that door-knockers have dressed like government officials, asked how people voted and made false claims of fraudulent voting.
In court filings, the US Election Integrity Plan has called the allegations “frivolous” and charged that the League of Women Voters of Colorado, Mi Familia Vota and the Colorado Montana Wyoming State Area Conference of the NAACP are damaging their reputation.
In 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice told Arizona state lawmakers that a proposal to knock on doors to confirm voter addresses as part of an unusual private audit of Maricopa County results could violate federal laws against voter intimidation. That part of the audit was dropped, although some Arizona voters reported receiving visits from people falsely claiming to be elections officials.
Joshua Graham Lynn, CEO of RepresentUs, a nonpartisan pro-democracy group, said door-knockers may find that some voters may have moved, or they may say they don’t live there or didn’t vote just to get strangers off their doorsteps. Any claims of voter fraud from a door-knocking effort would be “completely circumstantial,” he said.
“It’s ultimately a fool’s errand to think that going door-to-door is going to uncover some kind of voter fraud,” he said.
Matthew Weil, elections expert with the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington-based think tank, said that door-knocking efforts are also expensive. While it makes sense to spend that money before an election seeking to register voters or help people cast ballots, he said it’s a waste of money when your side has already lost. He predicted it would be a short-lived trend.
“I don’t see this as a viable strategy,” he said. “I think it’s more just about blowing off steam.”
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