Election conspiracy movement grinds on as 2024 approaches

Mar 17, 2023, 9:17 PM
Clay Parikn talks about variables in security during an Election Conspiracy Forum Saturday, March 1...
Clay Parikn talks about variables in security during an Election Conspiracy Forum Saturday, March 11, 2023, in Franklin, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
(AP Photo/Wade Payne)

FRANKLIN, Tenn. (AP) — One by one, the presenters inside the crowded hotel ballroom shared their computer screens and promised to show how easy it is to hack into voting systems across the U.S.

Drawing gasps from the crowd, they highlighted theoretical vulnerabilities and problems from past elections. But instead of tailoring their efforts to improve election security, they argued that all voting machines should be eliminated — a message that was wrapped in conspiracies about elections being rigged to favor certain candidates.

“We are at war. The only thing that’s not flying right now is bullets,” said Mark Finchem, a Republican candidate for secretary of state in Arizona last year who continues to contest his loss and was the final speaker of the daylong conference.

Finchem was among a group of lost in a clean sweep last November in important political battleground states, including Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Yet deep distrust about U.S. elections holding forums like the one recently just outside Nashville, attended by some 250 people.

As the nation barrels toward the next presidential election, the election conspiracy movement that mushroomed after the last one shows no signs of slowing down. Millions have been convinced that any election in which their preferred candidate loses has been somehow rigged against them, a belief that has fed efforts among conservatives to halt or delay certification of election results.

“Voters who know the truth about our elections have faith in them,” said Liz Iacobucci, election security program manager with the voter advocacy group Common Cause. “But the people who have been led into disbelief — those people can be led into other things, like Jan. 6.”

Trump, running for the White House no such evidence.

“I’m an election denier,” Trump said. “You’ve got a lot of election deniers in this country and they’re not happy about what’s happened.”

There has been disputed his loss confirmed the election results were accurate. State and local election officials have spent more than two years explaining the many layers of protection that surround voting systems, and last year’s midterm election was largely uneventful.

Trump allies such as MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell and former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn remain prominent voices calling for a ban on voting machines. They want hand-marked paper ballots counted individually without the aid of machines by poll workers in the nearly 180,000 voting precincts across the country.

“We all have the same agenda, to get our elections fair and transparent and where they can’t be hacked,” said Lindell, who recently announced plans to form what he calls an “election crime bureau” to bring his myriad legal, cybersecurity and legislative efforts under one organization.

In an interview, Lindell said he has spent $40 million since the 2020 election investigating fraud claims and supporting efforts to ban voting machines. He said he is taking out loans to continue to fund the work.

During an “America First Forum” held last month in South Carolina, Flynn told those gathered at a Charleston hotel that they were fighting not only Democrats but fellow Republicans who are dismissive of their concerns about the 2020 election.

“Our Republican Party, they want to move on,” Flynn said via video conference. “And frankly, the American people are not going to move on.”

An investigation by the Christian nationalist ideas. He relies in part on groups such as The America Project and America’s Future.

The America Project was launched in 2021 by Patrick Byrne, founder of Overstock.com. Byrne said elections remain a top priority for the group, though it also will focus on border issues. Asked how much he’s planning to spend ahead of the 2024 election, Byrne told the AP, “There is no budget.”

“I have no children, no wife,” he said. “There’s no point in me saving it for anything.”

Recently filed tax forms do not detail where the group’s $7.7 million in revenue came from that year, but Byrne and Michael Flynn’s brother, Joseph Flynn, told the AP that most of it came from Byrne himself. The group reported giving $2.75 million to Cyber Ninjas for a partisan and much-criticized review of the 2020 election in Maricopa County, Arizona, which includes Phoenix.

Michael Flynn is now focused on the nonprofit group he leads, America’s Future, and other projects, according to his brother. That group reported raising $2.3 million in 2021 and paying out $1.2 million in grants, including just under $1 million to Cyber Ninjas.

Others who have been central in the effort to raise doubts about the accuracy of elections also have been active this year. Among them is Douglas Frank, an Ohio math and science educator, who said on his social media account that he met with various groups in six states in January, seven states in February and planned to be in eight states in March.

At the Tennessee forum, Kathy Harms, one of the event organizers, took the stage to talk about why she is fighting to get rid of voting machines.

“I don’t do this for me. I would rather just be a grandmother at home,” said Harms, who lives in the county where the conference was held. “I have granddaughters I do this for because I want them to have what I have. I don’t want a banana republic.”

Presentations by people who work in information technology claimed election officials have little security knowledge or experience.

One of them, Mark Cook, walked attendees through the voting process, pointing out potential threats and playing a video he said was of an “Iranian whistleblower” accessing U.S. voter registration data to fraudulently request and submit military ballots.

Cook said the video had some “real components to it” and “could be legitimate.” He did not mention that an influx of duplicate military ballots would be readily apparent because election workers log each person who casts a ballot, meaning a second ballot that appears to be cast by the same person would be caught.

“There are thousands of ways to exploit these systems,” Cook said, dismissing security steps taken by election officials as a “shell game” and “smoke and mirrors to distract us.”

Election officials acknowledge that vulnerabilities exist, but say multiple defenses are in place to thwart attempted manipulation or detect malicious activity.

“Election officials and their partners understand that the goal isn’t to create a perfect election system, but one that ensures that any attack on the election system doesn’t exceed the ability to detect and recover from it.” said David Levine, a former local election official who is now a fellow with the Alliance for Securing Democracy.

Among those listening to the presentations at the Tennessee conference was Luann Adler, a retired educator and school administrator who said she has lost confidence in elections after reading articles and watching videos online about voting machines. She has been advocating in her community to ban voting machines and limit voting to a single day.

Serving as a poll worker last year, Adler said, she did not observe any problems. Still, the experience did not change her mind.

“As we have seen today, a machine can be manipulated,” Adler said. “I’m not pointing the finger at any individual or any community as being nefarious, but I don’t trust the machine.”


Associated Press writers Michelle R. Smith in Providence, Rhode Island; Nicholas Riccardi in Denver; and Jill Colvin in New York contributed to this report.

United States News

FILE - The fire-damaged Wellspring Health Access clinic is cordoned by tape on May 25, 2022, in in ...
Associated Press

Feds: Woman charged in Wyoming clinic fire opposes abortion

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A woman accused of setting fire last year to a Wyoming abortion clinic that was under construction told investigators that she opposes abortion and was experiencing anxiety and nightmares over the facility opening, authorities say in court documents. According to the court filing, 22-year-old Lorna Roxanne Green, of Casper, told Matthew […]
10 hours ago
Associated Press

FBI: 1 person fatally shot during multiday hostage rescue

HOUSTON (AP) — One person was fatally shot during a hostage rescue on Thursday in Houston, according to the FBI. FBI agents had been part of a multiday law enforcement operation to rescue a group of hostages, the agency’s Houston office said in a statement. “All the hostages have been safely rescued, no FBI agents […]
10 hours ago
People walk in front the courthouse past cameras and equipment set up by the media ahead of former ...
Associated Press

AP source: Trump grand jury hearing other matters Thursday

NEW YORK (AP) — The Manhattan grand jury investigating Donald Trump over hush money payments planned to hear testimony on other matters Thursday, seemingly further delaying a vote on whether or not to indict the former president, according to a person familiar with the matter. There was no immediate explanation for why the grand jury, […]
10 hours ago
Leroy Chapman Jr., the new editor of The Atlanta-Journal Constitution, is shown in this undated pho...
Associated Press

1st Black editor named to lead Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday named Leroy Chapman Jr. as its new editor-in-chief, making him the first Black editor to lead the newspaper in its 155-year history. Chapman, 52, has worked in journalism for nearly three decades and has spent the past 12 years at the Journal-Constitution, serving as its managing editor since 2021. Publisher […]
10 hours ago
Associated Press

NYPD officer rappels down building to stop man from jumping

NEW YORK (AP) — A police officer rappelled down a Manhattan skyscraper to stop a man who was facing financial fraud charges from jumping out of a 31st-floor window. The daring arrest happened after federal agents went to the man’s apartment near Carnegie Hall Wednesday morning to take him into custody. Rather than give himself […]
10 hours ago
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg arrives at his office, Thursday, March 23, 2023, in New Yor...
Associated Press

Manhattan DA rejects GOP demand for info on Trump case

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Manhattan district attorney investigating Donald Trump rebuffed House Republicans’ request Thursday for documents and testimony about the case, dismissing it as an “unprecedented inquiry” with no legitimate basis. In a letter obtained by The Associated Press, the general counsel for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg slammed the congressional request as “an […]
10 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Desert Institute for Spine Care in Arizona Photo)...
Desert Institute for Spine Care in Arizona

5 common causes for chronic neck pain

Neck pain can debilitate one’s daily routine, yet 80% of people experience it in their lives and 20%-50% deal with it annually.
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Company looking for oldest air conditioner and wants to reward homeowner with new one

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.
Fiesta Bowl Foundation

Celebrate 50 years of Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade magic!

Since its first production in the early 1970s, the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe has been a staple of Valley traditions, bringing family fun and excitement to downtown Phoenix.
Election conspiracy movement grinds on as 2024 approaches