Counties prepare for deluge of conservative poll watchers ahead of recall

County election officials have their hands full preparing for a heated gubernatorial recall election likely taking place this fall. Acting as an added stressor are the hordes of conservative ‘election integrity’ activists expected to descend on the polls as trained observers.

The Election Integrity Project (EIP) is one of the groups leading the charge. EIP's goal is to recruit 30,000 volunteers for the recall.

In November, EIP volunteers disrupted voting locations in the counties of Orange, San Diego, and Nevada, lobbing baseless accusations of voter fraud and singling out non-white voters for scrutiny. They also repeatedly challenged the authenticity of ballots, attempting to have many of them reviewed on specious claims.

“They were interfering with voters. They were interfering with our process,” Orange County Registrar Neal Kelley, told the Los Angeles Times. “They chew up resources like you wouldn’t believe. … Eighty percent of the time it was just nonsense.”

EIP’s efforts are part of a larger, national push to question the integrity of US elections and, in some cases, to curtail voting rights. GOP lawmakers have introduced at least 389 bills in 48 states that would make it harder to vote. These efforts have a hard time getting off the ground in progressive California. So right-wing activists turn to the polls, relying on election monitoring — and sometimes outright harassment — to root out the voter fraud they believe is rampant.

As the face of America’s darkest of dark blue states, Gavin Newsom’s recall fight has provided a delicious opening for the GOP. The battle will be waged on ballots, county by county. And it could get ugly.