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Inside the Election Denial Groups Planning To Disrupt November

Groups like True the Vote and Michael Flynn’s America Project want to mobilize thousands of Trump supporters by pushing baseless claims about election fraud—and are rolling out new technology to fast-track their efforts.

(Photo-Illustration: Anjali Nair // Wired),

As the most consequential presidential election in a generation looms in the United States, get-out-the-vote efforts across the country are more important than ever. But multiple far-right activist groups with ties to former president Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee are mobilizing their supporters in earnest, drawing on one baseline belief: Elections in the US are rigged, and citizens need to do something about it.

All the evidence states otherwise. But in recent weeks, these groups have held training sessions about how to organize on a hyperlocal level to monitor polling places and drop boxes, challenge voter registrations en masse, and intimidate and harass voters and election officials. And some are preparing to roll out new technology to fast-track all of these efforts: One of the groups claims they’re launching a new platform for checking voter rolls that contains billions of “data elements” on every single US citizen.

These groups could have a major impact on the 2024 election. In addition to disenfranchising voters and putting additional pressure on already overstretched election offices, they could convince more and more people that US elections are fraudulent.

Catherine Engelbrecht and her organization True the Vote have effectively tried to disenfranchise voters for more than a decade by claiming that voter rolls are filled with phony voter registrations. Engelbrecht’s rhetoric was given an unprecedented boost in the wake of 2020, when Trump and other elected officials mainstreamed conspiracies that the elections had been rigged in favor of Democrats. Hundreds of national and local election denial groups were formed, and many of them amassed huge followings on social media platforms like Telegram. As the 2024 presidential election looms, they are ramping up efforts to do it again.

“It could be exponentially worse than what we saw in 2020, but we're going to be awake, we're going to be engaged, we are going to understand the process, and we're going to have options to continue to hold to those truths,” Engelbrecht said during a March webinar titled “Election Integrity Team Building 101.” “We're not going to back down. There's too much to lose.”

The hour-long presentation was delivered from a hotel room in Denver, with Engelbrecht laying out what could sound like a relatively benign plan to monitor elections and check voter rolls. “Keep a soft heart, keep a kind word in your mouth, approach people irrespective of party with love. You will find that things will be much better if that is the approach that is taken,” Engelbrecht said. The session, she said, was overbooked.

Engelbrecht then began speaking about elections being “perilously close to cracking in half,” and her presentation became a highlight reel of election conspiracies, references to crystals, Christian nationalist rhetoric, and militaristic jargon. “If this republic’s to be saved, it's because [of] people like all of you that are on this webinar right now. There are some bad actors out there and we live in particularly chaotic and caustic times,” said Engelbrecht. “If we wait on somebody to do something, we will watch freedom slip away on our watch. That's how close we are.”

“These groups are trying to lay the groundwork to potentially make later claims about the election that very well may be false. But the more chaos that can be caused along the way will give more fodder to that disinformation,” Andrew Garber, an expert at the Brennan Center for Justice’s Voting Rights and Elections Program, tells WIRED. “It's not just bad if there's a mass voter challenge because people might get kicked off the rolls. It's also bad if people then take that challenge and say, ‘See, look at all these ineligible voters,’ when in fact that's not the case.”

Engelbrecht founded True the Vote in 2010, when she was an activist for the right-wing populist Tea Party movement. After the 2020 election, Engelbrecht and her collaborator Gregg Phillips became central figures in the Stop the Steal movement, and starred in the widely-debunked election conspiracy film 2000 Mules. They were also arrested for contempt of court after refusing to identify their source behind allegations that the Chinese government had accessed US election data. True the Vote also made wild allegations of widespread ballot stuffing in Georgia during the 2020 vote and a subsequent runoff in 2021. Earlier this year, True the Vote was forced to admit in court that the group had no evidence to back up its claims.

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In 2022, the group rolled out a slick new software tool known as IV3, based on technology developed by Phillips, that compared names on voter rolls to a database maintained by the US Postal Service, allowing anyone to challenge voter registrations across the country if they spotted a discrepancy. A WIRED investigation, however, revealed that the information used to challenge the registration of hundreds of thousands of people was based on unreliable data.

Undeterred, True the Vote announced last week that it was relaunching IV3. Phillips claims that the software’s database now has close to “100 billion data elements about every single voter in the United States.” WIRED has not seen proof of this claim. The new IV3 system will soon be available in all 50 states, the organization said. On Thursday, the group held a webinar to train local activists on how to use it. The new system also relies on data from the US Postal Service, but Engelbrecht claimed during the presentation that Phillips and his team had “normalized” the data from all 50 states to ensure the system would not produce inaccurate results. She also said that thousands of people across the country were already registered, and that they had a long waiting list.

Additionally, she said that another software tool developed by Phillips’ team, called Ground Fusion, would be released soon; it is aimed at organizations and PACs looking to identify voting irregularities across larger geographic regions.

Engelbrecht declined to comment, claiming without evidence that WIRED had “written unfairly about True the Vote and IV3 in the past.”

True the Vote is not the only group seeking to leverage technology to supercharge the spread of election conspiracies. A secretive Georgia-based firm called EagleAI NETwork has developed a voter information database to fast-track the deletion of ineligible voters from the system. Voter rights groups have advised against its use, as insignificant errors—such as a missing comma before the suffix “Jr.”—have led to eligible names being removed. Still, at least one county in Georgia has agreed to use EagleAI to review voter challenges and conduct list maintenance activities.

One of EagleAI’s key backers is former Trump adviser Cleta Mitchell, who in the past two years has become central to the push to spread election conspiracies on a national level through her well-funded Election Integrity Network.

The group has held in-person training seminars in recent years, with session topics including how to protect “Vulnerable Voters from Leftist Activists” and “Monitoring Voting Equipment and Systems.” More recently, the group has made its training sessions available online, and is now once again ramping up its efforts ahead of the 2024 election with an initiative called Soles to the Rolls, aimed at boosting challenges to voter registration.

Mitchell, EagleAI, and the Election Integrity Network did not respond to WIRED’s request for comment.

Another training webinar called “We the People” was also hosted last month by the America Project and its offshoot, Vote Your Vision. Broadcasted online to hundreds of attendees, the webinar featured a lineup of election conspiracists, Republican lawmakers, a guy who wrote a book about fifth-generation warfare, and former GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy.

The webinar, the group’s website said, was designed to give people “the secrets to reclaiming our power and reshaping history” by using “state-of-the-art election tools,” including those involving artificial intelligence technology. While the details of exactly what these tools will look like and how they will be used are unclear, the America Project has already scheduled more training sessions in the coming weeks to give supporters more information. The group also did not reply to requests for comment.

The America Project was cofounded by disgraced former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former CEO and conspiracist Patrick Byrne, who also funds part of the organization. Both Flynn and Byrne reportedly attended a White House meeting in late 2020 to urge Trump to essentially declare martial law and seize voting machines.

While Flynn didn’t speak during last month’s webinar, he has arguably done more than anyone since 2020 to push the notion that America’s elections are fundamentally fraudulent, appearing at conferences, in podcasts, and on right-wing news shows on a near-daily basis. Trump has also indicated that Flynn will be brought back into his administration should he win.

These efforts have been given the seal of approval by the Republican National Committee, which was recently restructured by Trump to include election deniers and family members in top positions while cutting minority outreach efforts. One of those election deniers is Christina Bobb, who will be running the “election integrity unit.” A former Trump lawyer and TV presenter on far-right channel One America News, Bobb is a major promoter of the myth that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. The RNC’s election-related priorities, according to an internal memo recently obtained by NPR, include “a broader effort over the coming months to [legally] challenge voter identification and signature verification rules which were put into place for the 2020 election.”

During the America Project webinar last month, one of the hosts apologized to listeners for being unable to get Bobb to join the call that day, but promised that she would join a future session—highlighting just how closely these conspiracy-focused groups work with the mainstream GOP apparatus.

“These groups have a playbook nationally that they tend to deploy locally,” says Garber. “Some of these playbooks that have an intended national reach are then deployed through local activists, and it's concerning because it's the voters at the local level who suffer the effects. It's the election officials at the local level trying to keep order at the polls, trying to make sure their voter rolls are up to date, who have to deal with this stuff.”

One of Flynn’s core messages over the past four years has been that “local action equals national impact” —an expression that revolves around a concept called “precinct strategy,” which aims to get people into key positions on local committees in order to push their narratives at the local level. In 2024, that strategy has been primed and polished.

“This concept of precinct strategy was actually endorsed by President Trump in the last election cycle,” Yehuda Miller, a Republican county committee member in New Jersey, said during the America Project seminar. “We want to take the strategy to the next level. We want to get more organized, we want to start organizing across multiple counties in a state, we want to start organizing across multiple states. We have the power to direct our elected officials.”

[David Gilbert is a reporter at WIRED who is covering disinformation and online extremism, and how these two online trends will impact people's lives across the globe, with a special focus on the 2024 US presidential election. Prior to WIRED, he worked at VICE News. He lives in Ireland.]