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VOTING RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS FILE FEDERAL LAWSUIT TO STOP ILLEGAL VOTER INTIMIDATION IN COLORADO

03.09.2022

The suit, filed against the US Election Integrity Plan and its leaders, argues that the group’s door-to-door, weaponized intimidation campaign violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871

NAACP Colorado, League of Women Voters of Colorado, and Mi Familia Vota Seek Immediate Court Intervention As This Illegal Voter Intimidation Spreads to Other States

DENVER, CO (March 9, 2022) – The Colorado Montana Wyoming State Area Conference of the NAACP (NAACP Colorado), League of Women Voters of Colorado (LWVCO), and Mi Familia Vota (MFV) today filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Colorado against the United States Election Integrity Plan (USEIP), an extremist organization with ties to QAnon and the January 6th Capitol Insurrection, seeking to stop USEIP’s illegal voter intimidation campaign in Colorado.  The lawsuit also names as defendants Shawn Smith, Ashley Epp, and Holly Kasun, USEIP’s founders and employees of Mike Lindell, CEO of My Pillow, a prominent proponent of allegations, which have been repeatedly and thoroughly disproven as lies, that massive voter fraud occurred in the 2020 presidential election. The plaintiffs are represented by co-lead counsel Free Speech For People and Lathrop GPM.

The lawsuit seeks immediate federal court intervention to stop USEIP’s ongoing voter intimidation campaign in Colorado, where the group’s agents, some of whom are armed, are using public voter lists to go door-to-door interrogating voters, demanding to know if they participated in the 2020 election, pressing them for information on how they cast their votes, questioning them about so-called fraudulent ballots, and taking photographs of their homes.

USEIP’s “County & Local Organizing Playbook” (the “Playbook”), which sets forth USEIP’s principles and goals, makes clear that USEIP’s tactics include engaging in violent and intimidating behavior, and threatening and intimidating voters purportedly in order to support debunked claims of election fraud. The Colorado-based organization is expanding its operations to Arizona, Georgia, and New Hampshire ahead of the 2022 election.

“Defendants’ objectives are clear. By planning to, threatening to, and actually deploying armed agents to knock on doors throughout the state of Colorado, USEIP is engaged in voter intimidation,” the plaintiffs argue. “USEIP’s public-facing actions are a clear signal to Colorado voters—especially voters of color—that to vote in an upcoming election means facing interrogation by potentially armed and threatening USEIP agents at their doorstep thereafter.”

USEIP’s intimidation efforts particularly impact communities of color, which have historically faced institutionalized barriers, violent threats, and intimidation for exercising their right to vote. Vigilante attacks, as well as police and immigration raids, compound the intimidation posed by USEIP to Black and Latino voters. Canvassers often target high-density housing areas and communities experiencing growth among minority voters.

The voting rights organizations bringing this lawsuit are asking the federal court for immediate relief, declaring that USEIP’s voter intimidation campaign is unlawful under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, and ordering USEIP and its leaders to cease and desist their intimidation campaign.

Héctor Sánchez Barba, Executive Director and CEO of Mi Familia Vota said: “We joined this lawsuit in Colorado against the United States Election Integrity Plan (USEIP), an extremist organization with ties to QAnon and the January 6th Capitol Insurrection, because voter intimidation is particularly threatening to the population that MFV serves, many of whom are new citizens or new voters. As an organization, MFV is worried about protecting voters and making sure that voting is safe for them, and that voters feel safe while voting. USEIP also is purposefully acting like government agents. This can make USEIP’s visits particularly intimidating. These acts of intimidation are awful, and we will fight them, no one should feel fear when they are exercising their right to vote. We are working everyday to build a stronger and more inclusive democracy.”

“No one should have to be afraid to go to the polls or fear that doing so will mean being threatened in their own homes,” says Courtney Hostetler, Senior Counsel at Free Speech For People, which serves as co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs in this case. “Free and fair elections can only occur when people know that they are able to safely vote without reprisal or intimidation.”  Free Speech For People is a national non-profit organization dedicated to defending our democracy and our Constitution.  The organization serves as a leading force in the country in litigation to protect the right to vote, including prior litigation stopping illegal voter intimidation in Minnesota leading up to the November 2020 election and current cases challenging voter suppression laws in Arizona and Texas.

“Voting is a fundamental right of every American citizen,” says Amy Erickson, Attorney at Lathrop GPM,  “The firm is proud to co-lead this action, which is intended to ensure that every voter feels safe and unintimidated when exercising their right to vote.”A full-service AmLaw 200 law firm with 13 offices nationwide, Lathrop GPM has recent experience with voting rights and election law litigation. For example, Lathrop GPM and Free Speech For People represented the League of Women Voters of Minnesota and the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in their lawsuit against private security contractor Atlas Aegis. The company advertised that it was seeking armed guards for polling places on Election Day. A preliminary injunction against Atlas Aegis in late October 2020 prevented their presence during the election, and a consent decree ruling in February 2021 barred the company from intimidating activities near polling places or other electorally significant locations through 2024. More recently, Lathrop GPM represented Common Cause Minnesota, OneMinnesota, and Voices for Racial Justice in Minnesota’s special redistricting proceedings, advocating for the rights and interests of Minnesotans of Color.

“Voter intimidation has no place in a democracy,” says Portia Prescott, President of the Colorado Montana Wyoming State Area Conference of the NAACP. “We have filed this lawsuit today to seek immediate federal court intervention to stop this illegal voter intimidation in Colorado and to protect the fundamental right to vote.”

“Voting is essential to our freedoms and way of life in this country,” said Derrick Johnson, NAACP president and CEO. “Any suppression of our constitutional right must be fought against with every tool at our disposal. We cannot allow the course of our nation to be reversed by those looking to gain power through ill-gotten means. Protecting our voting rights is a number one priority.”

“Sadly, efforts to intimidate voters are nothing new,” said NAACP General Counsel Janette McCarthy Wallace. “The NAACP has a long and proud history of opposing those who would seek to thwart democracy. We could not sit idly by and allow voters to potentially be bullied out of exercising their rights.”

“The actions of USEIP are designed to undermine confidence in our elections, though there is no evidence that election fraud occurred,” said Karen Sheek, Board President of LWVCO.  “The League of Women Voters of Colorado is partnering in this suit with other organizations in our community who view voter intimidation and the undermining of our elections as a direct assault on our democracy.”

“The League of Women Voters of Colorado strongly opposes any and all efforts at voter intimidation, including undermining voter confidence by spreading disinformation about the security of Colorado’s elections,” said Beth Hendrix, Executive Director of LWVCO.  “We’re proud to stand with our partners in halting this illegal and anti-democratic activity.”

“No voter should ever feel threatened in the safety of their own homes. The nefarious actions of the USEIP are a blatant form of voter intimidation used to target and with the intent to silence Colorado voters of color, which is in clear violation of the Voting Rights Act,” said Celina Stewart, League of Women Voters Chief Counsel and Senior Director of Advocacy and Litigation“The League will continue to fight against any attempts at voter intimidation and suppression in Colorado and anywhere else around the country.”

Read our full complaint here.

Read the memorandum supporting Motion for Preliminary Injunction here.