The “Vote Protectors” are affiliated with Trump adviser Roger Stone.
Vote Protectors, the anti-voter-fraud group hosted by Donald Trump ally and political dirty trickster Roger Stone, plans to send volunteers to monitor polling places in nine cities with high minority populations on Election Day, Stone said last week. Untrained poll-watchers have intimidated voters in previous elections. ButVote Protectors is going further than its predecessors.
Stone’s group created an official-looking ID badge for its volunteers to wear, and its volunteers planned to videotape voters and conduct fake “exit polls,” efforts that election experts say risks intimidating and confusing voters. Or at least that’s what the group was planning to do before The Huffington Post asked Stone about it on Tuesday. The controversial Trump ally, long known for his bare-knuckled political tactics, said that key proposals on his group’s websites were there without his knowledge, and assured HuffPost that he would operate within the confines of election law.
Stone had initially refused to explain just how Vote Protectors planned to accomplish its goals. So on Monday, The Huffington Post responded to the group’s request for additional volunteers to work as “Exit Pollers and Citizen Journalists.”
Once registered, HuffPost used the site’s “I.D. Badge Generator” to create this badge, which could pass for an official credential to people unfamiliar with polling signage and rules.
HuffPost also created a few more badges, like the one below. There was nothing to keep us from creating unlimited ID badges.
Vote Protectors’ volunteers “commit to go out in November and post their YouTube and Periscope streams to the [Vote Protectors] website, organized by state and district, as well as enter actual exit poll survey responses,” the group’s “members only” page reads.
To help volunteers broadcast their videos directly to the web, Vote Protectors offers detailed instructions on how to load livestream video software onto a smartphone and how to post videos to the Vote Protectors site.
By contrast, there appears to be very little information on how Vote Protectors are supposed to conduct “exit polls.” The video below, illustrating how to get started as a volunteer with the group, contains little information on how to conduct exit polls but plenty of information on how to stream videos of voters to the web.
Still, anyone registered as a volunteer with Vote Protectors can tally up votes at any time, for Trump or any other candidate, in what the site calls its “exit poll.” HuffPost accidentally logged two votes for Trump on Monday, visible below, despite having never entered an electoral precinct, and using a fake name.
Reached for comment on Tuesday, Stone told HuffPost he was “working withto conduct exit polls for the purpose of comparing the results to the actual reported results on a precinct by precinct basis.” He noted that this effort “is independent of the Trump campaign,” adding, “I don’t know what their election day plans are.”
When HuffPost asked Stone specifically about the badges and the videotaping, however, he became defensive. “I know nothing about badges or videotaping,” he wrote, adding, “Where do you get this from?”
Even before Stone responded, the “I.D. Badge Generator” page had been removed from the Vote Protectors website. When HuffPost sent Stone images from the site showing the instructions for badges and livestreams, Stone did not respond.
A few hours later, Stone emailed HuffPost. “I have ordered them taken down. Bad idea, as is video taping. First I have heard of it. I am only interested in a valid, scientifically conducted exit poll.” Stone later noted that Vote Protectors was collaborating with his group, Stop the Steal, but he said they were not one and the same.
Stone said that unlike the model currently run by Vote Protectors, his group would “ask each poll worker to sign a sworn affidavit that the information they turn in for tabulation is true based on interviews.”
These affidavits, Stone told radio host Alex Jones Tuesday, could then be used by the Trump campaign to contest the election results.
The goal of Vote Protectors is to crack down on what Trump and his supporters call “voter fraud,” a statistically nonexistent phenomenon that the nominee has nonetheless used to whip up fear among his supporters and delegitimize the coming presidential election.
Trump and Stone appear to be of like minds when it comes to deploying citizens to the polls on Election Day to watch other citizens vote. Trump regularly encourages his mostly white supporters to stand guard on Election Day at polling stations in areas where the population is largely made up of minorities and “watch” the polls.
“You’ve got to go out, and you’ve got to get your friends, and you’ve got to get everyone you know,” Trump recently told a rally in Pennsylvania, “and you’ve got to watch your polling booths. I hear too many bad stories, and we can’t lose an election because of, you know what I’m talking about.”