WaPo Details Security Firm’s Plans To Send Ex-Special Ops Personnel To Polling Places

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 11: Voters wait in line at a polling station located at Lyndale School on Tuesday, August 11, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Today is the last day Minnesotans can cast their ballots as they ... MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 11: Voters wait in line at a polling station located at Lyndale School on Tuesday, August 11, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Today is the last day Minnesotans can cast their ballots as they vote during the primary election across the state. Photo by Joshua Lott for The Washington Post via Getty Images MORE LESS

Election officials in Minnesota learned of a private security firm’s plan to deploy ex-U.S. military special ops personnel to polling places only because a Washington Post reporter reached out to ask the officials about it.

Anthony Caudle, the chairman and co-founder of security firm Atlas Aegis told the Washington Post that he was recruiting the private security forces on behalf of a consortium of businesses and “concerned citizens” that Caudle refused to name.

Caudle said they were being hired to make sure that the “Antifas don’t try to destroy the election sites,” while insisting to the Post that voters would not be intimidated by the sight of former military personnel at the their polling places.

Minneapolis’ top election official Casey Carl disagreed, and told the Post the private security forces were not authorized to be at polling places. Secretary of State Scott Simon, likewise, said the presence of private security forces would make “things more difficult” in the event that there was some sort of unrest at a polling place.

“It’s not a good use of people’s time and money to arm themselves or others at or near a polling place,” Simon said, according to the Post.

Neither Simon nor Carl were aware of the recruitment effort, which was advertised on a defense industry job listing site, SpecOpsNet.org, when the Post reached out about the plans. The listing sought specifically a class of ex-military officials designated for the most elite special forces, the Post said.

Longstanding concerns about vigilante poll watchers and the threat of voter intimidation they present have been taken to the next level this election cycle.

President Trump has doubled down on rhetoric, which he also employed in 2016, calling for his supporters to show up to polling places to watch for supposed fraud.

His campaign has sued in court to expand its abilities to deploy poll watchers to voting sites. Meanwhile, November’s election will be the first presidential contest where the Republican National Committee can participate in poll watching activities without first getting the permission of a judge, after the 2018 expiration of a decades-old consent decree. The decree stemmed from accusations that the GOP deployed off-duty cops to patrol minority neighborhoods during a 1981 New Jersey gubernatorial election.

The Trump campaign denied to the Post any awareness or involvement in the Atlas Aegis effort. More broadly, the campaign and the RNC have stressed that they plan to diligently follow the rules around poll watching, which can serve a legitimate function for campaigns to monitor that election procedures are being followed.

Atlas Aegis’ plans appear less geared at observing vote casting itself, according to the Washington Post report, which quoted its job listing seeking security staff to “protect election polls, local businesses and residences from looting and destruction.”

It is against state law for anyone besides voters, election officials, and those certified to serve as “challengers” to be within 100 feet of a Minneapolis polling place, according to the Post. The Post also pointed to voter intimidation laws that the private security force may be in violation of, depending on its activities.

Caudle would not tell the Post where exactly his firm planned to send the “large contingent” of ex-military officials. He said his firm was focused specifically on recruiting ex-special ops personnel because “they have a better understanding of how to defuse a situation.”

Dear Reader,

When we asked recently what makes TPM different from other outlets, readers cited factors like honesty, curiosity, transparency, and our vibrant community. They also pointed to our ability to report on important stories and trends long before they are picked up by mainstream outlets; our ability to contextualize information within the arc of history; and our focus on the real-world consequences of the news.

Our unique approach to reporting and presenting the news, however, wouldn’t be possible without our readers’ support. That’s not just marketing speak, it’s true: our work would literally not be possible without readers deciding to become members. Not only does member support account for more than 80% of TPM’s revenue, our members have helped us build an engaged and informed community. Many of our best stories were born from reader tips and valuable member feedback.

We do what other news outlets can’t or won’t do because our members’ support gives us real independence.

If you enjoy reading TPM and value what we do, become a member today.

Latest News
Comments
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Investigations Desk:
Reporters:
Newswriters:
Director of Audience:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Publisher:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: