Constitutional Sheriffs Group Plans To Insert Itself Into More Aspects Of The Voting Process In 2024

MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
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On Tuesday afternoon, the CEO of MyPillow Mike Lindell, along with a cadre of election deniers, spoke in front of a crowd of what organizers boasted could be over 800 people at the Ahern Hotel in Las Vegas, during an all-day event hosted by the far-right Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association. 

Lindell was only one of many election deniers who spoke at this week’s 12 and a half hour event, regaling the, in reality, sparse crowd in attendance with tales of dangerous voting machines and debunked conspiracy theories about a stolen 2020 election. The conference included speakers like failed Arizona Secretary of State candidate Mark Finchem, ex-Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne, and former Trump administration officials-turned MAGA personalities Steve Bannon, and Michael Flynn, among others.  

The Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association is a far-right movement that began in 2011, which experts say has only been emboldened since 2020 election denialism became a tenant of the MAGA right and a focus for the group. 

The movement — which stands on principles that Mary McCord, executive director of the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection and professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center, described as “really sort of made up” — maintains that sheriffs hold supreme law enforcement authority in the country, and that sheriffs, not federal or state law enforcement, have the ultimate authority to reject enforcement of federal law. 

The event provides a glimpse into which elements of the standard voting process the far right group is focused on demonizing as we head into the 2024 election. For example, several speakers focused on the false narrative that illegal immigrants will cast illegal votes on behalf of the Democratic Party in the fall. Speakers shared guides, according to reporting from WIRED, on how to stop the “expected flood” of alleged illegal voters from casting votes in November.

Experts warn that it appears the group could be gearing up for disruption in the fall, as well. 

“You would anticipate, I think, that there is some kind of planning going on for scenarios that might take place after November in which they would want their organizational capacity to be ready to go,” explained Jacob Ware, research fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, focusing on domestic and and international terrorism and counterterrorism. 

Before going on a tirade about the dangers of voting machines and widespread voter fraud, Lindell told TPM ahead of the event that he would be educating people on how much power sheriffs have at the county level to get rid of electronic voting machines. 

When he was introduced at the event, the MyPillow Guy got a small standing ovation from a less-than rousing crowd before launching into a familiar narrative about dangerous voting machines and compromised elections. On January 9, 2021, he told the room, he handed over “evidence” proving widespread voter fraud, under what he claimed was a government gag order. 

The evidence in question was never fully explained, but it was, according to Lindell, supposed to prove that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump. His goal now, he said, no longer involves overturning the results of the 2020 election, but rather he wants to get “rid of the machines” and move to a hand-counting ballot system – which has been proven to be both error-prone and inefficient

Finchem similarly spoke about faulty voter machines that rejected ballots “at a tune of 7,000” ballots, while election denier Mark Cook falsely told the crowd that Dominion Voting Software can easily be used to flip the votes in an election. 

The various conspiracy theories shared by speakers this week were all sponsored by the Constitutional Sheriffs group, which has been involved in efforts to encourage sheriffs to increase surveillance of ballot drop box locations and infiltrate ballot tabulators since the 2020 election. The group has also pushed member sheriffs to intervene in election administration, increasing the risk of voter intimidation.

Richard Mack, CSPOA founder and former Oath Keeper board member, in an interview with TPM, explained that Tuesday’s event — which according to a press release from the organization was designed to be a “training and press conference” for American leaders, patriots, and constitutional advocates — included state officials, Republican candidates, members of the public, as well as some constitutional sheriff members. 

The goal of the event and the organization as a whole, Mack claimed, is not to train constitutional sheriffs on how to investigate voter fraud, but rather, to “focus on peaceful and effective solutions.” In conversation with TPM, Mack never explicitly explained what these solutions are, but did emphasize that the group is not violent and that no members of the group were videotaped as being part of the January 6 insurrection.

Mack spoke generally about how the group is planning to safeguard the integrity of elections, noting that they have no authority over elections, but that they are working with True the Vote, the far-right Texas based group behind the debunked documentary on voter fraud, “2,000 Mules,” as well as Lindell, who Mack claims has gathered “extensive” evidence of supposed fraud. 

“The main thing we train in is the responsibility of sheriffs to make sure that elections are being protected and that any complaints are being investigated,” Mack argued. 

In the Constitutional Sheriffs movement’s view, protecting elections means inserting themselves into more aspects of the voting process — like providing security at polling places — and supporting officials who want to contest the results of the election via local audits, he said. The group is also focused on ensuring sheriffs follow up with reported voter inconsistencies in 2024, which he says were largely overlooked or ignored after 2020, despite the fact that many of the supposed claims of voter fraud that gained traction in 2020 have since been debunked.

Experts warn that the group’s stated goals are concerning ahead of November. There is a fear, according to Ware, that this particular group of law enforcement officers are not working on behalf of our democracy, but rather, working on behalf of what they determine to be the interests of a local population. 

These constitutional sheriffs, he added, might actually accelerate or intensify political divisions, which could ultimately lead to “a situation where you have pockets of the country where you do not have federal authority” or federal authority is being challenged by the local sheriffs, Ware said.

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