Trump ally Roger Stone is leading efforts to place “exit poll” watchers in pivotal swing states to prevent Democrats from purportedly trying “to steal the election from Donald Trump.” Voting experts have said Stone’s efforts could lead to voter intimidation, and Stone has a history of issuing violent and intimidating threats.
Longtime Trump Ally Roger Stone Is Leading “Stop The Steal” Efforts
Roger Stone Is A Longtime Donald Trump Ally And A Discredited Smear Artist. Roger Stone is a longtime adviser and friend to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. He speaks frequently with Trump and worked as a paid adviser to his campaign last year. [Media Matters, 5/9/16]
Stone Has Repeatedly Claimed Without Evidence That Democrats Are Trying To “Steal” And “Rig” The Election For Clinton. Trump has echoed these warnings during numerous rallies. [Media Matters, 10/12/16]
Stone Heads The Pro-Trump Group “Stop The Steal.” Stone heads the super PAC Committee to Restore America's Greatness and the related 527 group Stop The Steal. Stop the Steal states on its website that “the Clintons had to cheat and rig the system to steal the Democratic nomination from Bernie Sanders. Why wouldn’t they try to steal the election from Donald Trump?” The group has demanded that there be “targeted EXIT-POLLING in targeted states and targeted localities that we believe the Democrats could manipulate based on their local control, to determine if the results of the vote have been skewed by manipulation.” Its website is currently recruiting volunteers to be “an exit poller.” [Media Matters, 10/12/16, 10/21/16]
Stone Is Recruiting “Exit Poll” Volunteers From Far-Right Radio Host Alex Jones’ Audience. Stone has been trying to recruit volunteers from fringe sources such as the radio show audience of Alex Jones. Jones is the country’s leading conspiracy theorist and has claimed that 9/11, numerous school shootings, and other tragedies were perpetrated by the government. [Media Matters, 10/12/16, 10/25/16]
Huff. Post: Stone Partner “Planned Voter Intimidation Using Fake ID Badges, Fake Exit Polling.” The Huffington Post’s Christina Wilkie reported that Vote Protectors, which has partnered with Stone and his Stop the Steal group, “planned voter intimidation using fake ID badges" and "fake exit polling”:
Stone’s group created an official-looking ID badge for its volunteers to wear, and its volunteers planned to videotape voters and conduct fake “exit polls,” efforts that election experts say risks intimidating and confusing voters. Or at least that’s what the group was planning to do before The Huffington Post asked Stone about it on Tuesday. The controversial Trump ally, long known for his bare-knuckled political tactics, said that key proposals on his group’s websites were there without his knowledge, and assured HuffPost that he would operate within the confines of election law.
A few hours later, Stone emailed HuffPost. “I have ordered them taken down. Bad idea, as is video taping. First I have heard of it. I am only interested in a valid, scientifically conducted exit poll.” Stone later noted that Vote Protectors was collaborating with his group, Stop the Steal, but he said they were not one and the same.
Stone said that unlike the model currently run by Vote Protectors, his group would “ask each poll worker to sign a sworn affidavit that the information they turn in for tabulation is true based on interviews.”
These affidavits, Stone told radio host Alex Jones Tuesday, could then be used by the Trump campaign to contest the election results. [The Huffington Post, 10/25/16]
Voting Experts Trash Stone’s “Exit Poll” Plan
The Guardian: “Experts Say” Stone Tactics “Could Intimidate Voters.” The Guardian reported that Stone’s efforts were “branded highly irregular by experts, who suggested that organizers could potentially use the polling as a way to intimidate voters.” From the article:
Stone told the Guardian that around 1,300 volunteers from the controversial Citizens for Trump grassroots coalition would conduct exit polling in Cleveland, Detroit, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Milwaukee, Fort Lauderdale, Charlotte, Richmond and Fayetteville – all locations in pivotal swing states.
Media organizations and political campaigns conduct exit polling for all major elections, but David Paleologos – a polling expert and director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center – said effective exit polling was done in bellwether precincts, not in areas likely to be dominated by a particular political party.
“It doesn’t sound like that’s a traditional exit poll,” Paleologos said of Stone’s planned efforts. “It sounds like that’s just gathering data, in heavily Democratic areas for some purpose. It doesn’t sound like exit polling.”
Experts have taken several steps to remedy the digital vulnerabilities in voting machines in recent years. Last year at least one voting machine system was found to be substantially insecure. Princeton researcher Jeremy Epstein, now of technology firm SRI, discovered that WinVote machines used in Virginia could be accessed comparatively easily over a Wi-Fi connection through simple passwords. Epstein successfully pushed to have the machines decertified.
Epstein told the Guardian that exit polls in particular were a dangerously inaccurate way to gauge the legitimacy of an election. “There’s a lot of evidence that exit polls are not very accurate,” Epstein said. “People don’t tell the pollsters what they actually did. In this election, depending on the neighborhood, people might not want to admit that they voted for Clinton or that they voted for Trump.”
Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California, shared Epstein’s concerns over using exit polls as way of measuring the legitimacy of an election and warned: “It doesn’t sound like a scientific way to do things, nor do I think it’s a sound way to ferret out machine problems, it sounds much more like a Roger Stone dirty trick.”
“It sounds like he’s organizing a goon squad that could potentially be intimidating voters in minority areas,” said Hasen. “It does raise the threat of violence on election day at polling places. People are going to have to be vigilant.” [The Guardian, 10/20/16]
Stone Has A History Of Issuing Violent And Intimidating Threats
Stone’s Threat To Release Anti-Trump Delegates’ Hotel Room Numbers Was Criticized As Inciting Violence. During the Republican presidential primary, Stone said he would “disclose the hotels and the room numbers of those delegates who are directly involved in” allegedly stealing the nomination from Trump. Right-wing commentators called Stone's plan an effort to “intimidate delegates” and “another example of how Trump relies on thug tactics and violence,” and said he was “willfully inciting violence” that could lead to someone getting shot. [Media Matters, 4/6/16]
Stone Has Called For The Killing Of Public Figures. Stone has said that Hillary Clinton should be “executed for murder,” Bernie Sanders is a “soviet agent” who “should be arrested for treason and shot,” and he would “order a mail-order rifle” if Rick Santorum got close to becoming president. [Media Matters, 5/9/16]