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Private security contractors advertising jobs for armed guards at Minnesota polling places: report

Private security contractors advertising jobs for armed guards at Minnesota polling places: report
© Greg Nash

Job listings seeking to recruit military personnel for private security positions during the Nov. 3 election in Minnesota have election officials concerned.

As reported by the Star Tribune, Minnesota Attorney General Keith EllisonKeith Maurice EllisonProgressives unveil Biden Cabinet wish list Officers involved with George Floyd killing will stand trial together in Minneapolis, judge decides Trump lashes out at state officials over virus restrictions at Minnesota rally MORE says he is worried that armed guards showing up at polling places could be a form of voter suppression. Tennessee-based company Atlas Aegis in early October began advertising job posts looking for ex-soldiers that were described as “security positions in Minnesota during the November Election and beyond to protect election polls, local businesses and residences from looting and destruction.”

Chairman of the Minnesota Board of Private Detective and Protective Agent Services Richard Hodson says Atlas Aegis is not licensed to provide security in Minnesota. On Tuesday, Ellison launched an investigation into the company demanding to know who contracted the company, what the private security members would be doing and what training they would be receiving on Minnesota’s voter protection laws.

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In a statement released on Friday, Ellison said he was joining Minnesota election officials in, “strongly discouraging this unnecessary interference in Minnesota’s elections, which we have not asked for and do not welcome.”

On Tuesday, the Minnesota chapters of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the League of Women Voters sued Atlas Aegis in federal court, asking the court to block the company from recruiting and sending out ex-military members to polling locations.

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An attorney representing the groups, Julia Dayton Klein, wrote, “The threat of privately funded, heavily armed, militias prowling polling sites is a direct assault on the Voting Rights Act and our democracy."

Hodson said that Atlas Aegis claims to be working for a licensed company in Minnesota but has declined to provide a name when asked. The attorney general says the company has 10 days to respond to his demands, which were sent on Oct. 14.

Chairman of Atlas Aegis, Anthony Caudle, told The Washington Post that his clients were a “consortium of business owners and concerned citizens.” When asked if former servicemen so close to polling locations would intimidate voters, Caudle said, “Absolutely not. These people are going to be never even seen unless there’s an issue. So it’s not like they’re going to be standing around and only allowing certain people in.”

During the first presidential debate, President TrumpDonald John TrumpMinnesota certifies Biden victory Trump tells allies he plans to pardon Michael Flynn: report Republican John James concedes in Michigan Senate race MORE caused concerns for a potential surge of voter intimidation when he called for his base to go out to watch polls.

“I'm urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully, because that's what has to happen. I am urging them to do it,” he said when asked if he would abstain from declaring victory until after all the votes are certified.

As the Star Tribune notes, the Trump campaign and Republican National Committee have started recruiting volunteers for an “Army for Trump” with a goal of having 50,000 members go to polling places. Minnesota GOP officials say about 3,000 individuals have signed up so far and will receive training on state election laws which forbid interactions between campaign workers and voters.

Under state law, only one challenger may be present at polling stations and they must be a state resident registered to vote. Campaigning is not allowed within 100 feet of a polling place.