Minnesota AG launches investigation into Tennessee-based security firm that tried to recruit armed guards as poll monitors
- Minnesota AG Keith Ellison announced the probe into Atlas Aegis on Tuesday
- It came after civil rights groups filed a lawsuit accusing the Tennessee-based firm of posting ads seeking armed security personnel on Election Day
- ‘Minnesota and federal law are clear: no one may interfere with or intimidate a voter at a polling place,’ Ellison said
- Atlas Aegis allegedly posted an ad on Facebook offering to pay former Special Operations personnel to protect from ‘looting and destruction’
- The company’s chairman confirmed the authenticity of the Facebook ad in a Washington Post interview earlier this month
The Minnesota Attorney General’s office has launched an investigation into a private security firm that tried to recruit armed guards to work as poll monitors.
AG Keith Ellison announced the probe into Atlas Aegis on Tuesday after civil rights groups filed a lawsuit accusing the Tennessee-based firm of posting advertisements looking for armed security personnel on Election Day and ‘post election support missions’.
‘Minnesota and federal law are clear: no one may interfere with or intimidate a voter at a polling place, and no one may operate private armed forces in our state,’ Ellison said.
‘The presence of private “security” at polling places would violate these laws. It would make no one safer and is not needed or wanted by anyone who runs elections or enforces the law.
‘For these reasons, my office is formally investigating Atlas Aegis.’
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison (pictured) announced an investigation into Atlas Aegis on Tuesday after the private security firm was accused of recruiting armed guards to work as poll monitors
Atlas Aegis posted the Facebook ad above seeking former US Special Operations military personnel to protect polls, businesses and homes from ‘looting and destruction’
The lawsuit that prompted the investigation was filed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Minnesota and League of Women Voters of Minnesota.
The groups asked a judge to block Atlas Aegis’ recruiting efforts, describing a Facebook ad the firm posted on Facebook seeking former US Special Operations military personnel to protect polls, businesses and homes from election-related ‘looting and destruction’.
Atlas Aegis Chairman Anthony Caudle (pictured) confirmed the authenticity of the Facebook ad in a Washington Post interview
The ad, which has since been deleted, promised to pay $700 a day to anyone who agreed to head to Minnesota during and after the election.
Atlas Aegis Chairman Anthony Caudle confirmed the authenticity of the Facebook ad in a Washington Post interview earlier this month, the suit claims.
In that interview, Caudle denied the assertion that armed guards near polling sites would intimidate voters.
‘Absolutely not,’ he told the newspaper. ‘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.
‘They’re there for protection, that’s it. They’re there to make sure that the antifas don’t try to destroy the election sites.’
Caudle denied the assertion that armed guards near polling sites would intimidate voters
Meanwhile, officials in Michigan have also warned about the potential for armed civilians at polling places sparking violence or intimidating voters.
Last week Michigan’s Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson issued a directive banning the open carry of guns within 100 feet of voting centers.
Some Republicans and local law enforcement representatives have said it may not be enforceable.
Others have speculated that an attempt to block people from carrying guns to the polls will spur protests by gun rights activists outside of voting centers, raising the specter of election-related violence.
‘This is not a ban on firearms. This is an effort to protect our voters from intimidation, threats, and harassment on Election Day itself,’ Benson, a Democrat, said on a call with journalists.
As the state’s top election official, Benson said she had the authority to implement the ban based on state and federal law making voter intimidation illegal.
November’s election, one of the most bitterly contested in living US history, could set the stage for a clash between the robust American traditions of free speech and gun rights, following a series of incidents at this year’s wave of anti-racism protests.
Republican President Donald Trump, who trails in most national polls behind Democratic nominee Joe Biden, has cast doubt on the election result, calling it ‘rigged’ and warning supporters to watch for fraud.
Nonpartisan election experts have dismissed his claims about voter fraud as far-fetched and denounced calls for illegal voter intimidation.
Trump lost Minnesota by fewer than two percentage points in 2016 and won Michigan by a fraction of a percentage point.