“And you know, the poll watchers, we’re going to train them to be more aggressive. There’s no more of this, ‘Sit in the corner and don’t touch anything and don’t talk to anybody.’ We’re going to be bulldogs from here forward.”
Speaking to a group of fellow election fraud conspiracists, state Rep. Ron Hanks (R-Canon City), who is running for U.S. Senate, became excited as he talked about his plans for training aggressive poll watchers to monitor the 2022 election.
Hanks is one of a number of candidates who claim without evidence that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Trump. The details of the conspiracy vary, but generally, it asserts that a foreign power colluded with Dominion Voting Systems, the dominant ballot-machine company in the U.S., to switch votes from Trump to Biden.
Hanks did not respond to multiples inquires requesting details of his training plan and an explanation of his vision of what actions an aggressive “bulldog” poll watcher will take that previous volunteers failed to do. This article will be updated with any response received.
Recruiting and training poll watchers has become a top Republican priority nationwide, as evidenced by the huge increase in GOP volunteers who turned out to monitor the recent Virginia gubernatorial election. Much of the enthusiasm has been driven by mistaken belief, perpetuated by Trump, that fraud was rampant in 2020.
In Colorado, the state GOP has worked with QAnon-linked conspiracist group U.S. Election Integrity Plan to recruit volunteers for its own Election Integrity Operations Action Committee.
Fremont County Clerk Justin Grantham, a Republican who serves as Vice-Chair of the Colorado County Clerks Association, calls Hanks’ statement about poll watchers unfortunate, and says that the duties of the volunteer position are regulated by state law.
“It’s unfortunate that they want to be able to train poll watchers to be more aggressive when it comes to whatever they’re thinking a poll watchers should be doing,” says Grantham. “State law dictates what a poll watcher can and cannot do. There are classes that they must take and requirements that they have to fulfill and an oath saying that they’re going to fulfill the duty of a watcher, and if they don’t, they can be removed. So to claim that ‘we’re going to be bulldogs from here forward.’ is an interesting concept when I would almost guarantee a clerk will not allow a poll watcher to bully an election judge. It looks to me like he’s blowing off steam than anything because at the end of the day, these poll watchers will take an oath and take classes and if they violate their oath, they’re out of there. And I bet every clerk would do that if someone’s trying to hinder an election judge from completing their job.”
Grantham has called out Hanks’ election misinformation in the past, noting that Hanks refused his standing offer for a tour of the Clerk’s office to learn firsthand about the ballot tabulation process.
Hanks announced his poll-watcher training plans on an election conspiracy Zoom call hosted by Sherronna Bishop, U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert’s former campaign manager, who’s now working with election fraud conspiracist Mike Lindell. He was addressing another call participant, Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, who is currently under federal investigation for her possible involvement in the theft and publication of secure election data on the blog of Ron Watkins, a conspiracy theorist who is considered a likely author of the original QAnon content.
Hanks and a group of far-right candidates who share a belief in the “Big Lie” that the 2020 election was stolen joined the virtual meeting together while they were meeting to strategize about El Paso County, which Hanks said is important because it has the most delegates, presumably referring to the Colorado GOP party structure. Former Trump adviser turned far-right national podcaster Steve Bannon have been pushing activists, particularly pro-Trump election conspiracists, to attempt to “take over” local GOP leadership by running for precinct chairperson positions in county Republican parties.