On Monday, writing for MSNBC, Zeeshan Aleem wrote about the increasing boldness of right-wing sheriffs who are organizing to interfere with the democratic process based on former President Donald Trump's "Stop the Steal" conspiracy theories.
"According to the Times, two conservative sheriffs’ groups — Protect America Now and the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association — have already joined this agenda," reported Aleem. "Three sheriffs affiliated with these groups, from Michigan, Kansas and Wisconsin, have butted heads with election officials when the sheriffs pursued investigations into 2020 election fraud, including an effort to 'charge state election officials with felonies for measures they took to facilitate safe voting in nursing homes during the pandemic.'"
One of these sheriffs, Christopher Schmaling of Racine, Wisconsin, is currently leading a baseless push to eliminate his state's online portal for requesting absentee ballots, citing a pro-Trump group that deliberately tried to commit fraud using the system to delegitimize it.
"The groups are hosting conferences, running television ads, and advocating for increased police presence at polling locations," wrote Aleem. "As the Times reports, Protect America Now has partnered with conservative vote-monitoring Texas nonprofit True the Vote, which has spread unsubstantiated and debunked voter fraud claims, to raise '$100,000 toward a goal of $1 million for grants to sheriffs for more video surveillance and a hotline to distribute citizen tips.'"
Not only could this result in obstruction of the voting process, warned Aleem, it could result in more acts of mob violence like the Janaury 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, with sheriffs standing by and refusing to intervene, or even encouraging it.
"The potential for danger is clear," wrote Aleem. "Some police forces could be less willing to intervene to stop right-wing vigilante violence in response to another election contested by Republicans. (Think about the police’s chummy relationship with vigilante Kyle Rittenhouse, but on a far larger scale.) Or if police actually do end up securing more access to polling locations — a practice with a dark history of voter intimidation of Black voters — they have greater capacity to sabotage or add more credibility to false claims of voter fraud. (If this political movement didn’t need real evidence of 2020 fraud, why would they need it in the future?)"
"Much like with the Republican efforts to create 'election police' in some states, the optics are designed to make institutions look shady even if the premise for the effort is meritless," concluded Aleem.
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