WASHINGTON ― The founder of a fringe right-wing group issued a "call to action" this week asking members of the organization to go undercover to watch for voter fraud and voter intimidation at polling places on Election Day.
Stewart Rhodes posted his call to action on the Oath Keepers website this week on "Operation Sabot 2016," to "help police ensure the free and fair election process is not stolen from the citizens of the United States of America."
In an interview with The Huffington Post, Rhodes said Oath Keepers wouldn't intimidate any voters because they are not going to be wearing any gear that would indicate they are a member of the organization. Rhodes' post encouraged volunteers not to wear any Oath Keepers gear, and encouraged them to go "incognito," dressed to "blend in" with the public.
"You won't even know they're there," Rhodes said in the interview. "If someone is just going about their business, have a nice day. But if it looks like they're doing something illegal, we're going to record it."
"The ideal would be to catch somebody ― you know, a carload or a busload or a vanload ― of people going from one polling place to another," Rhodes said. "That is obviously a smoking gun video we'd like to have, but clearly us being out there is hopefully going to put a damper on those kinds of activities. So if nothing happens, then great, we have a boring day and just walk around and enjoy the outdoors."
In-person voter fraud in the United States is very rare. Justin Levitt, a former professor at Loyola Law School who now serves as a top voting rights official in the Justice Department, found just 31 credible accusations of voter impersonation fraud out of one billion ballots cast over several elections.
Rhodes' post encouraged members to dress "to NOT impress" and in a way that would allow them to be "overlooked and forgotten" outside of polling stations. He suggested they wear clothing that would let them fade into their surroundings.
"That may mean wearing a Bob Marley, pot leaf, tie-die peace symbol, or 'Che'GuevaraT -Shirt, etc. (we have plenty of long-haired, former 'Hippy' Vietnam Veterans, for example, who can easily do that), or it may mean wearing working-man Carhartt pants and a plaid shirt," he wrote. "Dress in whatever manner you think will help you blend in, depending on where you live and your local social environment. But please don't dress in cammo pants or shirt, like a wanna-be militia member."
In an Oath Keepers video, Louisiana Oath Keepers State Coordinator Duncan Simmons said they did not want to be viewed as infringing on the rights of voters. "We're there to document, not to interfere," Simmons said.
"If you start seeing busloads of people get off at one poll ... just to get off the bus at another poll, report that to your local law enforcement," Greg McWhirter, identified as a member of the national board of directors, said in the video. He encouraged volunteers to be "friendly" and non-confrontational.
"Also, don't be armed," McWhirter added.