New York Voters Intimidated By Individuals Impersonating Elections Officials, The Latest in MAGA Citizen Vigilantism Efforts 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Wednesday, Aug. 30, the New York State Board of Elections released a statement warning voters to be aware of individuals across the state impersonating county board of elections staff.

According to the statement, those going door-to-door are “confronting voters regarding their registration status, and erroneously accusing voters of committing a crime…in an effort to intimidate voters based on inaccurate and misleading information.” As of this week, the board is aware of voters targeted in 13 counties: Albany, Chautauqua, Jefferson, Onondaga, Ontario, Orange, Putnam, Saratoga, Schenectady, Steuben, Suffolk, Warren, and Washington counties, so far.

Though the board’s statement did not name any suspects, a group called New York Citizens Audit released a statement on Aug. 31 in response to the announcement, seeming to challenge the letter’s accusations in an attempt to justify the canvassing. The conservative grassroots group later confirmed and defended its role in encouraging members to visit voters’ homes for “research” purposes.

Citizen vigilantism has become more common since the 2020 election as politicians on the right encourage doubt in the electoral process by ascribing to and supporting unfounded claims of fraud. 

In Colorado, a lawsuit was filed last spring challenging the voter intimidation practices of a group called the United States Election Integrity Plan (USEIP). The individuals of USEIP were, according to the complaint, “sometimes armed…introducing themselves in ways that make voters believe that they are associated with government agencies,” taking pictures of their residence, asking how they voted in the 2020 election and questioning them about fraudulent ballots. Litigation is ongoing in the suit. 

Similarly, citizens have been empowered by far-right conspiracies since 2020 to challenge voter rolls, most infamously and egregiously so in Georgia, where nearly 100,000 voter registrations were challenged by just six right-wing activists. In some instances, these challenges resulted in otherwise eligible voters not voting in the midterms. 

This August, leader of the North Carolina Election Integrity Team, Jim Womack, whom former Trump lawyer Cleta Mitchell has publicly praised, openly lobbied North Carolina lawmakers as they considered amendments to the currently vetoed Senate Bill 747. Womack lauded the provision that now allows voters to challenge mail-in ballots in their entire county. He also asked that lawmakers include a provision  —  they did not  —  that would allow citizens access to cast vote records, a policy that other far-right activists are pushing for, like those in Arizona

All of this comes after Mitchell hosted an event last fall, which served as a nationwide strategy kickoff for activists to monitor “election integrity” at the state and local level through a variety of methods, including training poll observers, pursuing voter challenges and lobbying legislators. 

The most recent instances of voter intimidation in New York are just the latest right-wing effort to instill fear into voters across the country, sowing suspicion and doubt in the electoral process to the detriment of our country and our democracy.

Read the New York State Board of Elections statement here.