Former special forces are being recruited to “guard” Minn. polling places against “the Antifas”

    Letters VOTE with flag images
    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 23: Signage at an early voting center on September 23, 2016 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Minnesota residents can vote in the general election every day until Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

    A Tennessee-based security firm is recruiting former U.S. Special Operations personnel to guard polling places in Minnesota on Election Day against “the Antifas.”

    The Washington Post reported on Friday that the private security company Atlas Aegis posted an ad this week on a defense industry job site for “security positions in Minnesota during the November Election and beyond to protect election polls, local businesses and residences from looting and destruction.”

    Atlas Aegis Co-founder and Chairman Anthony Caudle told the Post that the effort is being paid for by a consortium of business owners and citizens in Minnesota who are worried about looting and arson like that which happened following the police killing of George Floyd in May.

    Armed military veterans patrolling polling locations would likely violate Minnesota laws against voter intimidation and alarmed Minnesota’s top election official Steve Simon.

    “Minnesota laws ensure voters are entitled to a polling place that is calm and free of intimidation,” Simon wrote in a statement to the Reformer. “We are actively working with state and federal law enforcement to ensure that these laws are strictly enforced, as they always have been. In addition, our 30,000 election judges at nearly 3,000 polling places are well-trained on those laws. Any outside effort to supplement election judges or local law enforcement is counterproductive, unwelcome, and possibly unlawful.”

    Minnesota law doesn’t permit any political activity besides voting within 100 feet of a polling location. Minnesota does allow poll challengers, but has detailed rules about who may contest another voter’s ballot and how. Poll challengers must be Minnesota residents and may only contest a voter’s ballot if they have personal knowledge of that voter’s ineligibility.

    President Donald Trump has raised the specter of military personnel guarding polling locations to prevent fraud despite there being virtually no reason to suspect it and not having the authority to do so.

    Antifa is short for “anti-fascists” and refers to an unorganized political movement of people who believe in violently confronting right-wing extremists. It’s unclear why the reported “consortium” would fear antifa attacks on the election.

    The Department of Homeland Security considers white supremacists — not antifa — the deadliest domestic terror threat in the United States.

    Max Nesterak
    Max Nesterak is the deputy editor of the Reformer and reports on labor and housing. Most recently he was an associate producer for Minnesota Public Radio after a stint at NPR. He also co-founded the Behavioral Scientist and was a Fulbright Scholar to Berlin, Germany.