Conspiracy theorist Jim Hoft has laid out a seven-point plan for elections that purports to combat left-wing voter fraud, but in reality seems designed to make the upcoming midterms impossible to administer. Hoft, who has repeatedly earned the title “dumbest man on the internet,” is the founder of right-wing conspiracy site Gateway Pundit and a frequent guest on Steve Bannon’s War Room podcast, where he recently discussed his outline.
His plan, if implemented by election denialist activists across the country, would likely put election officials at greater risk than they already are and could create real issues with voting tallies due to intimidation, bogus allegations of fraud, and other tactics. Already, some jurisdictions are facing election worker shortages, following the sustained and false allegations of voter fraud in 2020 and accompanying threats from conservatives. Gateway Pundit has played a substantial role in those efforts. Reuters found in December 2021 that 25 election officials were subject to targeted harassment that specifically cited Gateway Pundit.
There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election, or in any other major election in recent U.S. history. Nevertheless, Hoft created a seven-point plan that he and Bannon claim is necessary for the fair administration of the upcoming elections.
None of Hoft’s claims have any real evidence to support them, and his prescriptions are outlandish, most likely unworkable, and seemingly designed to intimidate local election officials who aren’t associated with the MAGA movement.
As Bannon made repeatedly clear in the segment, he and Hoft are giving right-wing activists a toolkit to manufacture claims of fraud in real-time. “We need warriors in those rooms,” Bannon said. “They got to be polite, they have to be, you know, nice, but steely resolve.”
“Not back off an inch,” he continued. “If a ballot can’t be 100% certified, it gets tossed.”
Hoft’s sprawling document is full of false and fantastical claims, as well as some alarming advice. Here are the most egregious examples.
Hoft’s step 1: “CRITICAL REQUIREMENTS WHILE THE ELECTION IS ACTIVE”
Hoft’s first step is a catch-all of sorts, combining a hodgepodge of debunked claims and ridiculous remedies. For instance, Hoft says election deniers should demand that they be given access to “USPS Regional Centers, tabulation center loading docks, and so on.”
The idea that the U.S. Postal Service is a nexus of voter fraud is common on the right, and former President Donald Trump alleged likely mail fraud in the run-up to the 2020 election. In reality, voting by mail is safe and secure, including in the last presidential election. Conspiracy theories about “backdated” ballots in Wisconsin, for instance, were debunked in real-time, and in greater detail as more became known. A postal worker in Pennsylvania named Richard Hopkins came forward to allege his supervisors were engaged in fraud, then backtracked, then denied he’d recanted and returned to his original position. Ultimately, his claims fell apart under scrutiny.
Conservatives have tried to defund and cripple the Postal Service, and Hoft’s latest broadside is more of the same. The idea that random MAGA activists need to be given access to USPS facilities to ensure a fair count is absurd.
In this step, Hoft also calls for conservatives to demand that “all delivery vehicles that move ballots or equipment, especially rental trucks, be equipped with temporary GPS tracking.” As Hoft makes clear in the Bannon interview, this demand is an extension of the false belief that there were “chain of custody” (or tracking) issues in the 2020 election.
“A lot of people have talked about chain of custody and, you know, how you document how many ballots came in,” Hoft told Bannon. “And this should, you know, obviously should happen, but what’s more important, we believe, is to have people there — so when there is exchange of ballots that we have people there who can also document themselves that these are accurate numbers.”
This, again, is a common and completely baseless claim on the right. Absentee ballots and mail-in-ballots — categories that have no “meaningful difference,” with the terms sometimes used interchangeably — are secure, and both are “hand-marked by the voter, which the National Conference of State Legislatures considers the ‘gold standard of election security,’” according to The New York Times.
Theories about “chain of custody” issues are often paired with other debunked claims, such as conspiracy theories that Democrats falsify votes using the names of dead people. In Pennsylvania, for example, a judge threw out a case claiming that dead people were registered to vote, citing, among other things, a questionable methodology.
Similarly, conservatives falsely claimed that drop boxes in Fulton County, Georgia, were beset with issues related to the custody forms and transfer records. In reality, “elections staff located all but eight of the more than 1,500 forms, sent them to state investigators and provided them to GPB News on a flash drive.”
Hoft’s step 2: “BALLOT PRINTING & QVF TOTALS”
Hoff’s second step is largely an extension of the first one, based on the claim that voter rolls are unreliable. “Jurisdictions typically send an initial Qualified Voter File (QVF) mailing list to their printing vendor,” Hoft writes. “The vendor then sends ballots to everyone on this list. They then send supplemental lists as new voter registrations arrive. Multiple lists create chaos, duplicates, extras, and worse.”
There is no evidence to back up this claim. In Michigan, conspiracy theorists claimed the state’s QVF was unreliable and had allowed votes to be cast on behalf of dead people. The Office of the Auditor General released a report in March that “quashed” that theory, as reported by The Detroit News. In Arizona, the Trump-aligned Cyber Ninjas pushed a claim that an additional 74,000 votes had been cast above what the voter rolls should have allowed, but that was shown to be false as well.
To the extent that voter files do need to be cleaned up and reconciled with death certificates, address changes, and such, conservatives are fighting every step of the way. A new tool called the Electronic Registration Information Center is designed to do just that, but it has been a target of right-wing conspiracy theories.
Hoft’s step 3: “TABULATION CENTER CENTRAL COMMAND”
In this step, Hoft argues that “if issues arise, GOP staff inside tabulation centers or other key areas must escalate to an external crew, in real-time.” These so-called crews should include “lawyers, election experts, and media staff.” Since there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud, this step can only be understood as blatant intimidation tactics aimed at election officials.
Hoft ominously threatens that these outside groups should “negotiate a resolution in a timely fashion or require a temporary shutdown of the faulty area.” They should also consider the “option of renting a motor home, for those worst tabulations centers, parked nearby as the command center.” Should any issues arise, these crews should contact “local radio, TV, national sites, social media influencers.”
This is a nearly identical strategy to how right-wing “dirty trickster” Roger Stone claims he instigated the infamous “Brooks Brothers riot” that disrupted the recount of the 2000 presidential election results in Florida. Stone claims he directed his troops from an outposted Winnebago near the tabulation center. (Brad Blakeman, a right-wing consultant, disputes this account.) After raucous demonstrations and a violent attack on the county’s Democratic Party chairman and another Democratic official, the Miami-Dade canvassing board did “an extraordinary about-face, voting to abandon the manual recount altogether and potentially depriving the Gore campaign of hundreds, if not thousands, of votes they hoped to pick up in the county.”
Hoft’s step 4: “EMERGENCY & SATELLITE POLL LOCATIONS”
“Bad actors are always looking for places where they can deposit large volumes of ballots at one time,” Hoft writes. “The ‘Emergency’ and ‘Satellite’ centers are known locations to accept massive ballot dumps.”
This claim is completely false, just as it was when Dinesh D’Souza pushed it in his debunked election denial film 2,000 Mules. The idea that large-scale ballot dumping took place in 2020, or is likely to take place in upcoming elections, is incorrect and baseless. Trump also pushed this idea shortly after the election, including in an interview with Fox’s Maria Bartiromo. In states where there were spikes, it was because ballots from Democrat-leaning counties were being tallied, though those counts also included votes for Trump.
One popular piece of so-called evidence for the existence of “magic ballots” and massive vote dumping originated from an out-of-context video out of Georgia. The video purportedly showed a poll worker “fabricating and counting additional ballots after Republican poll observers had left for the night,” according to a USA Today fact check debunking the claim.
“What you saw — the secret suitcase with magic ballots — were actually ballots that had been packed into those absentee ballot carriers by the workers in the plain view of the monitors and the press,” Gabriel Sterling, Georgia election system implementation manager, said after the video went viral.
“It’s important to have eyeballs on these locations and to disrupt any ‘bulk ballot delivery,’” Hoft concluded, in what again appears to be an attempt to encourage MAGA activists to intimidate poll workers.
Shaye Moss, the poll worker caught up in these lies, testified in front of the January 6 select committee in the House of Representatives about how these conspiracy theories upended her life and subjected her to racist threats and harassment. She was forced to resign from her role as an elections administrator. Her story reflects the overarching goal of right-wing media grifters to replace seasoned election workers with conspiracy theorists and extremists.
Hoft’s step 5: “EYEBALL THE UAA BALLOTS”
Hoft here is referring to undeliverable-as-addressed ballots, which he claims “seem to disappear in almost every major county.” It’s not at all clear where this claim originates, as Hoft doesn’t offer any evidence to support it, likely because none exists. Although small number of ballots may go “missing” because of address changes or other pedestrian irregularities, there is no evidence that they represent a statistically significant portion of those mailed out.
More broadly, Hoft’s fact-free claim is designed to further sow doubt about mail-in voting in general, which, again, is secure.
Hoft’s step 6: “QUESTIONS TO ASK THE COUNTY NOW”
Here is Hoft’s full list of inane questions he wants his readers to bother election officials with.
- Are any real-time type data feeds available for analytics?
- What do you do with the UAA ballots?
- What is your plan for dealing with the (UAA) undeliverable ballots?
- How do you flag UAA ballots and in what type of timeframe does that occur?
- Can you provide the USPS daily report that lists the number of UAA ballots they processed?
Given that the underlying reasons for asking these questions are so absurd, this amounts to little more than a coordinated harassment campaign targeting election overseers.
Hoft’s step 7: “INCIDENT CHECKLISTS”
In this step, Hoft links to three “incident checklists” that MAGA poll observers can use to generate a paper trail alleging voting irregularities or fraud. As the New York Times editorial board argued last month, the precinct strategy is primarily about manufacturing so-called evidence of fraud in real-time. Hoft’s “checklists” appear designed to do exactly that.
“The radical left and their media allies infiltrated GOP poll worker training,” Hoft writes. “They pushed a narrative that GOP training is biased and is creating overzealous election workers. This fake news is meant to provide cover for sketchy election jurisdictions.”
In fact, the stories he linked to are accurate depictions of training sessions led by election deniers who are creating an army of partisan foot soldiers with the explicit goal of taking over the machinery of U.S. elections.
Hoft and Bannon have made no secret of their goals in November, with an eye toward 2024. This seven-point plan is absurd in its factual claims, but potentially extremely dangerous in how it can be operationalized across the more than 176,000 precincts across the country. It’s a mistake to dismiss their playbook just because it’s all based on fantasy.