False claims of a stolen election continue to spread despite the fact that the House select committee has carefully laid out the timeline of the attack on the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6, 2021.
A new strategy is now in place. The movement is not a trickle down trend from the Twitter account of former President Donald Trump, but has become grassroots. Election denial influencers travel the country to share conspiracy theories with voters and politicians.
NPR's Investigations team used news reports and social media to find four key people in the movement. They were Mike Lindell, MyPillow CEO, long-time Trump supporter, Seth Keshel, Douglas Frank, former science and math teacher at high school, and David Clements, former law professor. These are the four key takeaways from this reporting.
The four election denialists NPR monitored have spoken at at least 308 events across 45 states and DC over the period of 18 months that has ended on Jan. 6, 2021. These events were usually small and held in churches, restaurants, backyards, and community centers.
While attempts to undermine elections results are most visible in battleground states such as Arizona, grassroots denial movements of election results are happening across the country, even in deep red states. Telegram has a number of believers who have created "Audit Chats" in their states to discuss conspiracy theories.
Before he became a Trump supporter, Lindell was well-known for his pillow ads. NPR did not track the three other election deniers. They were less well-known before they became involved in conspiracy theories about election fraud.
Frank shared a March 2021 post on his social media about how he spent days with Lindell. He also posted to his social media about spending days with Lindell. Later, he appeared on Lindell's YouTube channel to discuss his theories. Frank quit his Ohio teaching job and now travels extensively to talk about his theories of fraud in election. Over the last 18 months, he has been to at least 137 events.
Trump made a statement highlighting Keshel's claims of widespread fraud in election elections in August 2021. This helped Keshel rise to fame. In 36 states, he has appeared at least 121 times.
Clements was a New Mexico State University law professor until he was fired for not following the COVID-19 policies. Clements has been at fewer events since Jan. 6, 2021 but maintains a strong social media presence. His Telegram account has more than 115,000 subscribers.
The 2020 election is settled. Various courts, audits and news reports have repeatedly refuted allegations of fraud. The goal of the election denial movement to "decertify" the 2020 vote or to overturn it, will not be realized.
However, the movement could influence future elections. NPR recorded that at least 78 elected officials from federal, state, and local levels and more than 100 candidates for office met with or appeared alongside the figures. Many elected officials have an influence on how elections are conducted.
Frank refers to his vision of American elections as "Vote Amish," which is a reference to a skeptical attitude towards voting machines and electronic poll books. Keshel presents a more complex "10 Points to True election integrity." Both of them envision a future where votes can be cast in person on paper and then counted manually. However, voting experts have discovered that this method of counting would increase the errors in tabulation and cause chaos.
Arizona and Pennsylvania Republicans have tried to prohibit or severely limit the use of ballot dropboxes. Other states have passed a range of restrictions on election, including tighter ID requirements and a window that allows mail-in voting.
There is no evidence that widespread fraud occurred in the U.S. election process. These restrictions would have the main effect of making it harder for Americans to vote.
Four election deniers travel across the country convincing everyday Americans that the 2020 election was stolen. This is a false claim that incites fear and anger among those who believe it.
Many people who attend these events take action based upon the information they hear. This could be as simple as canvassing your neighborhood for voter fraud, or speaking at a meeting of the county commission aEUR" to harass election officials.
Jocelyn Benson, Michigan's secretary-of-state is Jocelyn Benson. NPR reported that her office increases security to counter any threat if a prominent figure from the election denial movement visits Michigan and attacks the electoral system.
Carly Koppes is a Republican election official from Weld County, Colo. She says it's nearly impossible to change people's minds who follow the path of election conspiracy theories. After Douglas Frank's visit to Colorado, Weld County residents began going door-to-door to find out if there was any fraud.
Koppes stated that there is so much wrong that they keep going back to it. "And then, once I have blocked that path with correct information, they just move that goalpost." They keep moving the goal posts."