Conservative Activists Take Voter Challenges to New Heights in Washington

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A group of conservative activists has taken voter registration challenges to the extreme in the state of Washington, not only filing 28 challenges to voters’ eligibility since June, but often going door-to-door to investigate the alleged illegal registrations, according to an investigation from King 5 News.  

Vigilantes part of the Thurston County Voter Research Project (VRP) claim that the 28 voters’ eligibility were flagged due to improper registrations. According to King 5, VRP’s volunteers evaluate election records and other documents to identify supposed suspicious voters. If, for example, a voter’s registered address does not match the address where they received a ballot, VRP then flags the voter to election officials. 

But, the vigilantes don’t stop there. Members of VRP are actually showing up to the addresses they claim have suspicious registrations and confronting residents, sometimes asking residents to sign a document stating that a voter no longer lives at the address, despite being registered there. 

The practice has been described by some as voter intimidation, and one individual, Angela Donovan, stated that VRP volunteers visited her home asking about her mother-in-law’s eligibility. She told King 5 that she “signed the thing saying she wasn’t living here (anymore)” and that “[t]hey looked like they were official enough to me. So, I’m like, whatever.” 

After a member of the county’s election staff actually got in touch with Donovan’s mother-in-law, she explained that she wasn’t there when VRP showed up because she was “tending to her 91-year-old father” and that “she’ll be coming back to Thurston County.” When the challenge went to a formal hearing in front of officials, the county upheld her eligibility.  

Failed challenges like that are common. Of the 28 challenges that have gone to formal hearings, almost half have resulted in a voter’s registration being upheld. VRP has been challenging voters’ eligibility at their homes at least since last year, and a separate King 5 investigation found that the group’s previous reports were riddled with errors. In fact, King 5 “did not find a single case of voter fraud that had not already been uncovered by elections security measures.”

Last year, following complaints from residents over the home visits, county auditors and Washington Secretary of State Steve Hobbs (D) issued public statements warning that VRP’s “misguided efforts…result in gross disinformation.” Thurston County Auditor Mary Hall (D) said at the time that “[p]eople called very concerned, because they were portraying themselves as county employees,” and that “[t]hey had like the Thurston County logo on their clipboard.”

Instances of citizen vigilantism and voter intimidation have been frequent and rising in recent years as a result of baseless voter fraud claims following the 2020 election. Just last week, the office of Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares (R) sent a letter to a right-wing organization warning the group to “immediately cease and desist” from sending false and misleading information to voters in Virginia.

That followed a New York State Board of Elections warning in August, alerting New Yorkers of individuals across the state impersonating county board of elections staff. The New York attorney general’s office subsequently sent a cease-and-desist letter to the group NY Citizens Audit, warning that their actions could be examples of unlawful voter intimidation. 

And in Georgia, vigilantes have challenged tens of thousands of voters’ eligibility due to the state’s 2021 omnibus voter suppression law that made challenges easier. That number might only rise, as a right-wing group’s alternative to ERIC, called Eagle AI, says it could generate thousands of challenges to voter eligibility with just “a few clicks” in states like Georgia. 

Read King 5’s investigation here.

Read more about recent voter challenges here.