Falsehoods fuel fear underscoring Kalamazoo GOP’s election strategy
There are no immediate problems to solve in Kalamazoo County’s elections, but the local Republican Party is trying to recruit hundreds of election workers here by playing up falsehoods about fraud elsewhere in the state and around the country in the 2020 presidential election – exacerbating unfounded fears that it will happen in upcoming elections.
The initiative is part of a calculated state and national strategy by the party, leaders of which led a “Summit on Election Integrity” in Portage last week. That event included the Michigan GOP co-chair who faces allegations of election fraud which, she claims, was done at the behest of the Trump campaign itself.
All allegations brought to court claiming President Trump won the 2020 election have been rejected by judges appointed by both major parties. Absent new evidence to support such allegations, repurposing the discredited claims further politicizes an electoral process that is intended to function as apolitical.
The Republican Party is now taking aim at aspects of the election process, such as absentee voting and the regulations that election workers adhere to, further shaking confidence in the election process and inspiring more partisan workers to get involved.
“We need to get into the room and find out what is going on,” Josh Findlay, the Republican National Committee’s (RNC) national director for election integrity, told the 70 or so people gathered at Traveler’s Café & Pub on Portage Road.
The state GOP, supported by the RNC, has created a centralized system that will field all applications for election inspectors instead of applicants submitting them to the municipal clerk’s office. The RNC has also set up a hotline for reporting election day allegations. They hope to have 5,000 applicants statewide by May.
It has hired Allegan County’s Matthew Siefried as statewide director of election integrity and is in the process of hiring deputy and regional directors, Findlay said.
Siefried told the crowd that Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson didn’t have the authority to mail out absentee ballot applications (she did), and suggested that voting machines sent tabulations to other countries (they did not).
While speakers focused on tweaks to various aspects of the election process, the overall message was that, despite evidence to the contrary, only one party could be trusted to conduct a fair election.
“We have to have Republicans running our elections all across the state,” Matthew DePerno, the Kalamazoo-based, Trump-backed candidate for state attorney general, told the crowd.
Siefried said the key to this is Republican Party members becoming election workers.
Tony Lorentz, chairman of the Republican Party of Kalamazoo County, told NowKalamazoo that there’s no cause and effect to increasing the number of Republican Party election workers in the county – that there are no known problems with the local election results, nor is there an expectation of more Republican Party victories with more party workers on election day.
“It doesn’t lead to anything. All we are looking for is fair,” Lorentz said. “I’m not saying anything about Kalamazoo County. This is a national issue.”
The new, nationwide initiative being executed in Kalamazoo and elsewhere is not violating any law, now that a 40-year-old consent decree has expired. Previously, the Republican Party had been restricted from recruiting certain election day operatives due to voter intimidation in a New Jersey governor’s race in 1981.
“There’s, especially this cycle, just so much interest in this process because our base is so fired up about what happened in 2020 that folks want to participate and not only be poll watchers, but step in and be poll workers and make sure that, you know, they’re behind the scenes,” RNC spokeswoman Danielle Alvarez told Breitbart News.
The Republicans’ focus now is on recruiting election inspectors, who are paid by local election authorities to help voters and process ballots, and poll watchers (also known as poll challengers) because “Democrats continue their unconstitutional assault on our most basic voting protections,” according to the RNC recruitment drive.
“We’re working basically on election inspectors,” Lorentz said. “A lot of smaller precincts never have enough workers.”
It’s a focus of the party at least through the 2024 election, said Lorentz.
The lack of election day staff makes it difficult for county clerks to create the partisan parity envisioned in state election law, though Lorentz said he hasn’t seen evidence of any problems in Kalamazoo County elections.
“I haven’t found anything here,” he said.
Seated in November 2021, he’s one of four members of the county Board of Canvassers, which is made up of two Republicans and two Democrats. Lorentz declined to comment on whether he would have certified the 2020 county election results, since he wasn’t on the board at that time or privy to its inner workings. When pressed whether he has any hindsight now that he’s in the boardroom, he said, “I thought [the elections] were fine.”
When asked whether the party is focused on election worker recruitment because of fears of systemic voter fraud or being outright cheated by the Democratic Party, Lorentz declined to provide details or specific examples of articles he claims illuminate the issue.
“This has been going on for two years,” he said. “I can’t prove any of it so I’m not going to say anything about it.”
Kalamazoo County’s Republican Party has for months held regular, similarly-focused informational sessions about election issues, though the Summit last week appears to be a new phase of electoral engagement.
In addition to Findlay and Siefried, the event’s promotional material featured two key speakers, both of whom have controversial histories with recent elections.
One was Michigan GOP co-chair Meshawn Maddock, who over the past few weeks has been exposed as one of 16 Michiganders who falsely claimed to be an elector and signed fake election certificates that were sent to the National Archive claiming that Trump won Michigan. This was part of an effort to influence Vice President Mike Pence to upend the congressional electoral certification process on Jan. 6, 2021.
“The Trump campaign asked us to do that – under a lot of scrutiny for that today,” Maddock said at a public event earlier in January organized by Stand Up Michigan, according to a recording obtained by CNN.
Maddock gave the invocation and led the Pledge of Allegiance to launch the Kalamazoo GOP’s event on Jan. 25, but didn’t give a speech.
When asked why the Kalamazoo County Republican Party featured a speaker at an election integrity summit who is actively being investigated for elections fraud, Lorentz said “because I don’t believe she did. The Democrats have been pumping this stuff out for years.”
He said people should focus more on Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson who “has broken more election laws than anyone I know.”
Also featured at the summit was Monica Palmer, executive director of the baseball-themed movement League of Our Own, who spoke about getting more women involved in politics.
Palmer, a member of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers for the 2020 national election, initially opposed certification of that county’s results, then voted to certify it, and then following a call from Trump, attempted to rescind the certification.
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