From left, Shawn Smith, Holly Kasun, Ashe Epp and Mike Lindell appear during a Nov. 28, 2021, broadcast on frankspeech.com. Smith, Kasun and Epp are Colorado-based “election integrity” activists. (Screenshot from frankspeech.com)
A trio of civil rights organizations has sued a group of far-right Colorado election conspiracists in federal court, alleging that their unsuccessful efforts to uncover fraud through door-to-door canvassing amount to a “voter intimidation campaign” in violation of the Ku Klux Klan Act.
The suit, filed on Wednesday in U.S. District Court by the Colorado NAACP, the League of Women Voters of Colorado and Mi Familia Vota, also accuses the U.S. Election Integrity Plan and three individual defendants of violating the Voting Rights Act through what it calls their “intimidating, threatening, and coercive conduct.”
The allegations relate to the door-knocking efforts that USEIP has undertaken in counties across Colorado and in several other states. Leaders of the group, which was founded by supporters of former president Donald Trump in the wake of his defeat in the 2020 election, have spoken often about their campaign and released a volunteer guide for what they call “voter verification canvassing.”
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The suit’s plaintiffs allege that USEIP’s activities, which they say have sometimes included canvassers carrying guns, interfere with the civil rights of the communities they represent.
“USEIP agents, wearing badges that identify themselves as official-sounding groups such as the ‘Voter Integrity Committee,’ and sometimes introducing themselves in ways that make voters believe that they are associated with government agencies, are using public voter lists to target and intimidate voters,” the lawsuit claims. “USEIP agents ask residents to confirm their address, question residents about their participation in the 2020 election and their method for voting, and either ask them about allegedly fraudulent ballots or accuse them of casting allegedly fraudulent ballots.”
Election-denial activists Shawn Smith, Ashe Epp and Holly Kasun are named as defendants in the lawsuit. Epp and Kasun are co-founders of USEIP. Smith, who has frequently associated with the group, drew scrutiny for comments he made at a meeting of far-right election deniers last month, in which he said that those involved in election fraud “deserve to hang.”
“Defendants’ canvassing has the purpose and effect of intimidating Coloradans from voting, trying to vote, helping others to vote, supporting or advocating for certain political beliefs, or exercising the right to speak, peaceably assemble, or petition the government for redress of grievances, in violation of Section 11(b) of the Voting Rights Act,” the lawsuit alleges.
The Ku Klux Klan Act was passed by Congress in the aftermath of the Civil War, in response to violent campaigns of voter intimidation launched by ex-Confederate paramilitaries in the South. It includes a prohibition on “conspiracy to interfere with civil rights,” which Wednesday’s lawsuit accuses USEIP of violating.
Polling has shown that more than three-quarters of Republican voters continue to falsely believe that Trump was the legitimate winner in the 2020 election. Colorado Republican gubernatorial candidate Heidi Ganahl praised USEIP’s efforts at a campaign event last year, saying the group is “doing great things.”
Reached by phone for comment, Epp said Kasun was handling press for USEIP and that she would pass along the reporter’s number to Kasun, who had not contacted Newsline by the time of publication. A phone message left with Smith was not immediately returned.
“The danger of it is that if it can work in Colorado, then it’s going to work moving forward,” Colorado NAACP president Portia Prescott said of USEIP’s efforts in an interview. “Colorado is the pilot program, because we have the safest election process in the country. If they can instill fear here in Colorado then right now what is at stake is democracy itself, because then they can instill fear across the country.
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