In an effort that local officials and experts describe as far larger than anything launched in previous elections, the Trump campaign is pushing for details on everything from holding ballot papers to voluntary verification, face-to-face and in writing, so the election officials told CNN.
In at least two key states, Wisconsin and Georgia, local officials have received questionnaires from Trump’s team asking them about various sources and documents, how ballot papers will be verified, how staff will be deployed, and what the envelopes of ballot papers will look like.
More than 1,800 Wisconsin town clerks have received a document in the past few weeks that, according to government officials, looked at first glance like a request for public records. However, according to Wisconsin spokesman Reid Magney, this was a document from the Trump Victory team looking for data on Election Commission.
In Georgia, district officials received a 59-question document from the president̵
“What steps are being taken to ensure that a voter who votes by mail cannot vote in person?” the document says.
“So send it to us. And then you see and vote and let’s see what happens. However, now you can be sure that your very valuable and important vote has been counted,” Trump said.
His campaign’s drive to gather detailed information on everything from holding ballots to voluntary screening in Wisconsin and beyond has shed light on how the president’s re-election team prepares – and searches – for the high likelihood of litigation in key states for potential evidence needed in support of Trump’s frequent allegations of a rigged system when the time comes.
According to experts and election workers, it is common practice to court election workers yourself. This helps campaign staff avoid looking for a local contact in the chaos of election night in the event of a problem in a key state or county.
However, the nature of the questions and the aggressiveness of public relations are new, said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation & Research, a non-partisan group.
“When you start treating these meetings like a filing for a lawsuit that will take place three months later, your eyebrows will go up,” Becker said.
Magney in Wisconsin said the Trump team had made it clear that the questions “came from headquarters” and were part of a broader strategic effort by the campaign. He said the effort is more aggressive than it was in the previous election and he has already received calls from the Wisconsin Republican Party and a Trump campaign official while the Trump team works to learn the details of the electoral rules in a crucial case Status.
“They try to gather as much information as possible about how the system works in anticipation of a possible recount. They try to put their information in files. They try to build relationships – they have the name so this employee knows them too” , he said. “So if there’s a problem just before election day, don’t call her the first time.”
A Biden campaign official said the former vice president’s team had also deployed resources in swing states to build relationships in local electoral offices.
“We made major investments early on to deploy electoral security personnel on the ground in battlefield states, in part to enable them to develop relationships with state and local election officials to ensure that the voting goes smoothly and that no one is denied access to the ballot.” Box, “said Biden campaign spokesman Mike Gwin.
Prepare for chaos
The reach of election campaigns to local election workers is nothing new. A former electoral officer in Arizona described campaign dinner invitations. Becker said the election officials would likely be riddled with questions from the election campaigns.
“It is perfectly normal for campaigns to contact election offices, especially in battlefield states, to find out what rules, procedures and schedules they have,” Becker said. “It could be a phone call, it could be a face-to-face meeting, which, of course, we do less now. … What is unusual is when the questions start anticipating and setting up potential litigation later.”
A Republican National Committee attorney told CNN that liaison with local election officials was heavily focused on battlefield states, and defended the practice as usual.
“When you get a response from an officer stating that they are not obeying the law and that they must be obeyed – and there will be district officials who are not obeying the law, whether by design or not,” said Justin Riemer , the chief attorney for the Republican National Committee. “They may not be adhering to minutes, be it for the preliminary vote or the custody chain of election papers or anything else that is really important to the integrity of the process. So it is important information we need to have.” “”
The questionnaire the Wisconsin GOP sends to employees in that state asks detailed questions about aspects of the system, such as: B. where paper votes are kept prior to processing, who has access to them, and how those volunteers are selected.
The 34 questions also include several questions about what happens in the event of a recount – including where and how already counted ballots are stored in case they need to be counted again, and how quickly they are processed in this scenario.
“What is the retention and security process like once an envelope and ballot has been processed?” reads a question from the document. “When will the ballot papers be counted in the event of a recount?” reads another.
Wisconsin employees were asked where people can drop off their postal ballot papers before election day and what security measures are in place to log and protect those ballots in places like a dropbox.
The questionnaire electoral officials in Georgia received more detailed research.
The clerks were asked about postage for postal ballot papers, which providers print the forms and how long the campaign had to question something about the ballot paper design – from the font used to the spelling.
“Are there any markings on the envelope during the primaries to distinguish between Democratic and Republican ballots?” The questionnaire says. “Is the return postage paid by the district (or another electoral authority)? Can a third party provide postage legally?”
Thea McDonald, deputy national press secretary for the Trump campaign, cited issues with expanded mail-in voting, which appeared in multiple presidential primaries this year, as one reason the team is gathering so much information from key counties.
“As part of the Trump campaign for a free and fair election, we have sought information from the district clerks so that we can have a detailed understanding of the absentee voting processes – and the similarities and differences that may exist in different jurisdictions since this year With more than 500,000 postal ballots issued in the primaries, we need to address these critical issues before November. When did transparency become a bad thing? “McDonald said in a statement to CNN.
Provision of survey observers
Through the numerous lawsuits filed by the Trump campaign and RNC, the party is amassing a deep bank of local attorneys who can give Republicans the ability to quickly and skillfully file state-level lawsuits, according to sources.
Several election officials told CNN that the role of election observers is to document details of what they see on the ground when voters cast ballots. They write down everything from problems with individual machines on site to whether there are enough paper votes available for everyone that showed up – in case the campaign decides to question the results and needs evidence to back it up .
According to one source, lawyers associated with campaigns are more likely to be housed in “central command centers” to oversee the more technical aspects of ballot counting – for example, whether the pre-established custody chain for ballot papers has been followed or if there are procedures to verify the signature are followed.
All of the information gathered could be vital if a lawsuit follows a close outcome.
“In an election year, there is always an increase in voting disputes, but with Covid this phenomenon really carried over to steroids,” Riemer told CNN. “We have never seen anything like what we currently have with legal challenges.”