Alexandra Berzon at NYT:
An extensive review of Ms. [Cleta] Mitchell’s effort, including documents and social media posts, interviews and attendance at the Harrisburg seminar, reveals a loose network of influential groups and fringe figures. They include election deniers as well as mainstream organizations such as the Heritage Foundation’s political affiliate, Tea Party Patriots and the R.N.C., which has participated in Ms. Mitchell’s seminars. The effort, called the Election Integrity Network, is a project of the Conservative Partnership Institute, a right-wing think tank with close ties and financial backing from Mr. Trump’s political operation.
Ms. Mitchell says she is creating “a volunteer army of citizens” who can counter what she describes as Democratic bias in election offices.
Ms. Mitchell’s trainings promote particularly aggressive methods — with a focus on surveillance — that appear intended to feed on activists’ distrust and create pressure on local officials, rather than ensure voters’ access to the ballot, they say. A test drive of the strategy in the Virginia governor’s race last year highlighted how quickly the work — when conducted by people convinced of falsehoods about fraud — can disrupt the process and spiral into bogus claims, even in a race Republicans won.
The Republican National Committee’s involvement is part of a return to widespread election-work organizing. For nearly 30 years, the committee was limited in some operations by a consent decree after Democrats accused party officials in New Jersey of hiring off-duty police officers and posting signs intended to scare Black and Latino people away from voting. The committee was freed of restrictions in 2018.
This year, its multimillion-dollar investment includes hiring 18 state “election integrity” directors and 19 state “election integrity” lawyers. The party has so far recruited more than 5,000 poll watchers and nearly 12,000 poll workers, according to the committee. These efforts are separate from the Election Integrity Network, said Emma Vaughn, an R.N.C. spokeswoman.
But in multiple states, the R.N.C. election integrity directors have been involved in Ms. Mitchell’s events. Ms. Vaughn acknowledged that party officials participate in events hosted by other groups to recruit poll workers and poll watchers. She noted that in many states poll monitors must be authorized by the party. The R.N.C. is training its monitors to comply with laws protecting voting rights, she said.