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Election deniers are swamping officials with records requests — including Maine’s

A voter places her absentee ballot in the ballot box, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty
AP file
A voter places her absentee ballot in the ballot box, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, Maine.

Far-right activists and conspiracy theorists who falsely claim that former President Donald Trump won the 2020 election are threatening litigation and sending records requests to election officials in multiple states, including Maine.

Secretary of State Shenna Bellows says her office has received several such requests and she worries they're designed to disrupt administration of the upcoming midterms.

The requests appear to be identical to those distributed on obscure social media sites frequently used by Trump supporters.

One sent to Maine election officials closely mirrors language posted on Telegram by Terpsichore “Tore” Maras-Lindeman, a podcaster, QAnon conspiracy promoter and an affiant in the failed legal effort to get the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the 2020 election.

It instructs election officials to retain all voting records from 2019 onward, including paper ballots from the 2020 contest that were set to be destroyed early this month in accordance with federal law.

Bellows, a Democrat, says the last-minute requests are frivolous and bogus, but potentially problematic for election officials gearing up for this November.

"It could undermine our local and state officials' ability to do the tremendous amount of work to ensure that the 2022 elections are free, fair and secure," she said.

Election officials in multiple states, including Kentucky and Massachusetts, reported receiving the same request, which suggests another development in an ongoing election denial campaign that administrators around the country have described as predatory, disruptive and sometimes threatening.

While that campaign is spurred nationally by notorious conspiracy theorists, Bellows says it has also swept up some Maine residents who are often surprised when her staff informs them of the safeguards in state elections.

Others, she says, are not interested in learning about those protections because they're fully under the influence of election deniers such as MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell.

"Unfortunately we have seen that Mainers have fallen victim to disinformation and misinformation spread by some of these QAnon and MyPillow and Telegram sites encouraging people to believe lies about the 2020 election," she says.

Maine Town and City Clerks' Association president Sue Skidgell says she wasn't sure how widespread the records requests to local officials have been, but a clerk in Shutesbury, Mass. — population 1,700 —reported getting multiple, identical letters.

Meanwhile, Bellows says that every hour officials have to spend dealing with the sham record requests is an hour that is not devoted to administering a well-run election. And she says that could be just what election deniers are after this fall.

Journalist Steve Mistler is Maine Public’s chief politics and government correspondent. He is based at the State House.