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Election deniers deliver deluge of records requests to officials

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Town clerks across the country are dealing with a surge in conspiracy-fueled requests for information pertaining to the 2020 Presidential Election.


Shutesbury’s mechanical ballot box, a wooden machine made in 1934, stamps ballots and keeps a running count of voters. Across the country, election officials and staff are facing requests for information, harassment, and even death threats. Lane Turner/Boston Globe Staff

As local election officials in Massachusetts scramble to prepare for the upcoming general election on Nov. 8, they are facing an increasing amount of new challenges and diversions. Tasks that they are mandated to do by law, like sending out mail-in ballots to anyone who requests one and coordinating early voting locations, are being made more difficult by a notable uptick in public records requests.

These requests demand voting machine tapes, serial numbers, file names, and more complicated information pertaining to the 2020 presidential election, according to a report from The Boston Globe. The information being requested is obscure enough that some town clerks say they don’t even know how to procure it. Since they are required by law to respond to each request, these officials now have less time to devote to the preparation for this year’s election. 

This deluge of records requests appears to be a coordinated effort by some supporters of Donald Trump. The people sending them either genuinely believe the 2020 presidential election was “stolen,” want to intentionally overwhelm election officials this year, or both, according to reporting from the Globe and the Washington Post.

Galvin takes action

The problem is not being felt just by election officials at the local level. Recently, Secretary of State William Galvin took a step to address the issue. His office contacted Attorney General Maura Healey to formulate a coordinated response, the Globe reported. 

“They are self-appointed vigilantes who think they are going to go out and protect America,” Galvin told the paper. “It’s a different kind of radicalism. It’s dangerous because we have an ongoing election.”

Many of these requests appear to be using templates distributed by well-known election deniers. Recently Galvin’s office received requests that used a template distributed by Terpsichore Maras-Lindeman, a podcaster whose show, “Tore Says,” regularly promotes election-related conspiracy theories, according to the Globe. 

Galvin told the paper that the jump in records requests occurred this year, bolstered by messages from people like Maras-Lindeman. This year, Galvin’s office received 118 requests, compared to 62 in 2018.

The requests sent to his office and local election officials are “shrill” in tone and imply conspiracies, he told the Globe. They often ask for documents that do not exist and get in the way of officials doing their jobs. 

“That kind of ignorance, combined with the harassment and intimidation, causes me to suggest there needs to be some action preemptively taken against this,” he told the Globe. “We have a lot of work to do, and we can’t spend our time responding to fantasies from people being egged on from conspiracy theorists in other states . . . I fear as we get closer to November 8, we are going to see more of this.”

Election denial in Massachusetts

The number of records requests regarding the 2020 election could continue rising as local politicians echo Trump’s unfounded claims. 

This includes Geoff Diehl, the Republican running against Healey to become the state’s next governor. 

Since 2020, Diehl has changed his stance on the matter. Last summer, he told GBH that he did not believe the election was “stolen,” and that Republicans should “stop crying over spilled milk.” But this August, he told WRKO that the 2020 election was “definitely” stolen from Trump. 

Diehl is endorsed by Trump. The former president told supporters in a tele-rally the day before the primary that Diehl would “rule your state with an iron fist, and he’ll do what has to be done.”

When asked by The New York Times recently if Diehl would agree to the outcome of the general election, a spokesperson said “no comment,” the paper reported

In follow-up comments to GBH, Diehl said that he would accept the result of the election if there are no irregularities found in the voting process. 

“Any insinuation that I would resort to any methods to protest any election outside of legally accepted means and consistent with the rule of law is demeaning, offensive, and most of all categorically false,” he said in a statement to GBH. 

A report published this month by States United Action that sought to track deniers of the 2020 election that are currently running for office, Diehl and secretary of state candidate Rayla Campbell were classified as election deniers. 

A national effort

Election officials in Massachusetts are not the only ones feeling the mounting pressure posed by election deniers and an inundation of public records requests. 

The States United Action report found that at least one election-denying candidate will be on the ballot in 27 states. These candidates are running to become governors, attorneys general, and secretaries of state.

Election officials in nearly two dozen states have seen a surge in public records requests in recent months, the Post reported. 

Kentucky officials told the paper that they did not recognize some of the documents they were being asked to produce. When they sought clarification, those sending in the requests said they didn’t know what the documents were either. North Carolina officials said that hundreds of requests were all filed in one day, and Wisconsin officials said one recent request asked for 34 different types of documents, according to the Post. 

Election officials in Pennsylvania, a key battleground state, have also seen more requests than they are used to. A spokesperson for one county told PennLive that they are seeing a “substantial increase.” Officials from other counties have said that they are being forced to add staff members just to handle the requests. 

Those in Pennsylvania said that the recent boom in records requests stems from comments made by MyPillow founder Mike Lindell at a “Moment of Truth” summit in August. Lindell, a leading voice in the election-denying movement, called on those listening to obtain “cast vote records” from every election office in the country. 

In an interview with the Post, Lindell said that he learned about cast vote records over the summer and is urging people to request them and send him copies. His goal is to make the case that voting machines should be abolished, the paper reported. 

Many officials have already published electronic photos of their ballots, the Post reported, but are still being swamped with records requests. 

Matt Crane, head of the Colorado County Clerks Association, told the Post that this was a coordinated effort to get in the way of election officials doing their jobs. 

“The irony is, if Lindell wanted the cast vote records, he could have just put in a request to get them,” he told the Post. “They don’t do that. They put out this call to action for people to do it, and they know it’s going to inundate these offices, especially medium and small offices who are understaffed and overwhelmed already. They know exactly what they’re doing.”

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