Feb 23, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Conservatives use new tack to target voting machines

Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida is seen in a hall on Capitol Hill.

Rep. Matt Gaetz. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) joined a group of conservatives last week at a training session for activists readying to combat the continued use of the voting technology that propelled Trumpworld's 2020 election-theft conspiracy theories.

Why it matters: Theories about uncounted or overcounted votes have become politically tricky and legally problematic for their most prominent backers. The activist training is part of an effort to put a more respectable and pragmatic face on the trend.

What's happening: The remote event was hosted last Friday by the Leadership Institute and emceed by Matthew Braynard, who spearheaded an effort to unearth proof of 2020 voter fraud.

  • "If we focus only on why people vote, and the left focuses on how votes are laundered and processed and requested and returned and verified, then we can have the better ideas and still lose power," Gaetz warned in opening remarks.
  • Braynard and a handful of Leadership Institute staffers trained activists about how to lobby state and county governments to oppose the use of voting machines such as those made by Dominion Voting Systems, which has been targeted with outlandish and false attacks by Donald Trump, his legal team and supporters.
  • Braynard is already pushing for Stark County, Ohio, to end a contract with Dominion.
  • Dominion was in the news again Monday after it filed a $1.3 billion lawsuit against MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, accusing him of harming the firm with baseless criticism of its machines.

The training effort is part of a larger campaign by Braynard's group, Look Ahead America, to combat what it calls "black-box" voting technology.

  • The proprietary nature of equipment such as Dominion's makes it more difficult to publicly inspect the ways in which that technology tabulates votes, he insists.
  • Braynard says the proposed alternative — "open-source" equipment — "removes the dangerous suspicion that election results are not valid."

Reality check: That "dangerous suspicion" about the 2020 election is entirely a product of conspiracy theories floated by Trump and his allies.

  • Braynard himself launched a group late last year called the Voter Integrity Project, which used public voter data to attempt to root out ostensibly fraudulent or suspicious votes in key swing states.
  • Braynard's data was cited in multiple unsuccessful lawsuits seeking to overturn 2020 election results. But some of that data fell apart under closer examination.

Braynard nonetheless raised more than half a million dollars for the effort.

  • While the Voter Integrity Project did not have formal financial reporting requirements, Braynard documented its spending in a public spreadsheet to address any concerns that money was misspent or steered to him personally.
  • The leftover funds — about $85,000, he told Axios — have been donated to Look Ahead America, which Braynard founded in 2018.
  • He's now restarting the organization, which had its tax-exempt status revoked after repeatedly failing to file IRS forms. Braynard says it's already raised another $75,000 and brought on a new treasurer to address the prior reporting errors.
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