Election Truthers Learn A Lesson From ‘Stalin’ As They Look Toward November

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Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin (18 December 1878 Ð 5 March 1953) was the first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee from 1922 until his death in 1953. While formally the off... Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin (18 December 1878 Ð 5 March 1953) was the first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee from 1922 until his death in 1953. While formally the office of the General Secretary was elective and was not initially regarded as top position in the Soviet state, after Vladimir Lenin's death in 1924, Stalin managed to consolidate more and more power in his hands, gradually putting down all opposition groups within the party. Stalin's idea of socialism in one country became the primary line of the Soviet politics. He dominated Soviet politics and the USSR through the Great Purges of the 1930s, then the catastrophic Second World War, remaining in power until his death in 1953. (Photo by: Pictures From History/Universal Images Group via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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Like a movie villain pausing to explain in detail his evil plan just before lowering the hero into the shark tank, election truthers keep talking and talking about their efforts to make sure they are happy with the results of the 2024 election. The scheme, in short: They want to be the ones counting the votes.

One group of Montana Republicans recently put a particularly fine point on it, using a (possibly fake) Stalin quote to explain why activists might want to take a job supervising polling places.

Per NBC Montana:

Missoula County Republican Central Committee quoted Joseph Stalin in a section of their website recruiting election judges.

Number four of their eight-step guide reads, “If you found the results of the 2020 elections dubious, you’re not alone. We are actively vetting and enrolling election judges to make sure that every vote counts. ‘Those who vote decide nothing. Those who count the vote, do’, -Joseph Stalin.”

There’s no evidence the Russian dictator ever said that, NBC Montana goes on to explain. But, presumably, it’s the sentiment that counts. After journalists asked for comment, the Missoula County Republican Central Committee pulled their website down and replaced it with this:

This idea — that those who believe 2020 election conspiracies must become election workers in order to avoid a repeat of the fraud they baselessly claim tainted the last election — is a recurrent one. TPM came across it most recently when reporting on a 32-page compendium of 2020 conspiracy theories that Donald Trump has given his stamp of approval, even submitting it into the legal record as he defended himself against Jack Smith’s Jan. 6 prosecution.

“You need to be involved as an election worker on Election Day,” one of the activists behind the document told his fellow conspiracy theorists. “And, if you are going to do that, then go on to your Facebook account and eliminate as much conservative stuff as you possibly can because you will be profiled … They will not hire you.” 

“Put stuff about, like, you know, your cats, and your flower garden, or your dogs, or fishing. I don’t care, just not political stuff,” he continued, adding, “Get your ass hired so that you can be part of this and be part of the solution.”

TPM, ProPublica, the New York Times, Politico and others have reported on various right-wing projects to sign up 2020 truthers as election workers. Steve Bannon has pushed his audience to do so; Cleta Mitchell led a more formal effort ahead of the 2022 midterms, partnering with the RNC. And while this didn’t quite result in chaos during the midterms, there’s evidence that the enthusiasm on the part of conspiracy theorists to count the votes may have contributed to the sense of threat and intimidation that election administrators have felt so acutely. The Times spoke to one official whose county was targeted by the Mitchell effort, and who resigned in part because of how difficult it made his job.

“If there’s an absence of good will there’s nothing you can say that’s going to reassure someone or win them over or change their mind,” the former Fairfax County, Virginia, registrar told the paper.

Now, the RNC has redoubled its effort to recruit poll workers and poll watchers ahead of the 2024 election, Axios recently reported. And while election conspiracy theorists may be disappointed to discover that, contra “Stalin,” the vote counters do not pick the winner, they may find ample opportunity to muck up the works. Unlike in 2022, the conspiracy-theorist-in-chief, Trump, will be back atop the ticket, and, following an RNC election tomorrow, Trump may enjoy a party even more loyal to him, led by a chair who describes the 2020 election as stolen, and steering an army of activists who could cause quite a bit of confusion, or worse, at the polls.

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