President Donald Trump’s political operation is battling efforts to expand vote-by-mail and his religious-right backers are helping lead the charge. On Intercessors for America’s monthly prayer call on May 1, True the Vote leader Catherine Engelbrecht told a group of pro-Trump prayer warriors that the struggle over expanded vote-by-mail is a “spiritual battle” for “control of the free world.”
Voting rights advocates and public officials around the country are working to expand voters’ ability to vote by mail in response to the public health risks that voting in person pose this year. (Dozens of cases of COVID-19 have been linked to voters and election workers from Wisconsin’s April 7 elections.) But Trump’s political operation is spending tens of millions of dollars to expand “its legal effort to stop Democrats from overhauling voting laws in response to the coronavirus pandemic,” Politico reported Thursday.
Intercessors for America and True the Vote are on board. Engelbrecht claimed on IFA’s call that the expansion of vote-by-mail is an effort to “absolutely destroy free and fair elections.”
True the Vote describes itself as a nonpartisan “citizen-led movement” working for “free and fair elections.” It has a track record of challenging voter registrations, supporting voter ID laws and voter-roll purges, and fielding election observers who provoked allegations of voter intimidation. It is planning to field off-duty police officers and veterans to patrol polling places this year.
After Trump claimed without evidence that he would have won the 2016 popular vote if not for “millions” of people voting illegally, True the Vote launched a “national audit” of the election and one of its leaders claimed it had verified more than 3 million non-citizen votes before the group abandoned the effort, Engelbrecht said at the time, for lack of funds.
Engelbrecht told IFA’s intercessors that the expansion of vote-by-mail is an “orchestrated effort” to “take advantage of the fearfulness, the uncertainty, and push this agenda to overturn all of the processes that would normally be attendant in safeguarding elections.” Engelbrecht cited a widely touted but misleading statistic about 28 million mail-in-ballots being “lost in the process” since 2016.
Vote-by-mail advocates “want to cause chaos, and they’re going to spread it across the country like a virus,” she claimed. Engelbrecht prayed, “Lord, we just ask that you would—we know that you your spirit is not a spirit of chaos. We know that that is from Satan.” Kubal described Englebrecht as a “warrior for liberty” that God has “anointed” for this moment in time.
Both Engelbrecht and IFA’s Dave Kubal spoke in urgent terms. Engelbrecht pleaded with God to “let people just understand we are fighting for control of the free world” and prayed that God would encourage people to “rise up” and get involved in the “1000-front war.”
“Literally, the freedom, the freedoms of our nation are at stake,” Kubal said. “Six months from now everything could change. These next six months we are literally fighting for our republic, for the liberties that we have enjoyed.”
Kubal started their conversation by asking Engelbrecht to explain “what progressives are attempting to do during this time.” She said that they are following the dictum, “never let a good crisis go to waste” and are “remaking the way our elections are to be run.” Engelbrecht said:
This is going to have an impact unlike anything we’ve ever seen in November, if we don’t get in front of it. But what they’re doing specifically, as you pointed out, is they are maximizing every opportunity to get a paper ballot in the hands of anybody that they can send one to. You couple that with the problems that we have in the rolls—with respect to them not being clean—no voter ID, all of the safeguards that are attendant to the process if you are voting in person, all wiped away. It is engineered chaos writ large.
Engelbrecht said that her group is suing Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam for changing election laws “by fiat” and claimed that Northam had “declared everybody in Virginia to be disabled” as a way to expand absentee voting. Kubal, who lives in Virginia, said he wasn’t aware of that. Maybe that’s because in reality, the state’s Department of Elections several weeks ago encouraged people to vote absentee in May 5 municipal elections, stating in a memo that voters could meet state requirements for absentee voting by listing “disability or illness” during the stay-at-home order in the state. Since then, Northam has signed legislation to expand access to voting in Virginia.
Even before the May 1 call, IFA has been promoting the right-wing narrative that reforms designed to remove obstacles to voting are a recipe for massive election fraud. IFA recently distributed a “special report” called “Protecting the Vote,” which begins with an apparently bogus quote wrongly attributed to Thomas Jefferson: “We do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.”
IFA’s use of that concocted Jefferson quote feels like a David Bartonesque effort to enlist the Founding Fathers’ prestige on behalf of a modern agenda, in this case voter-suppression efforts that are at the root of modern right-wing strategies for taking and holding power. As Paul Weyrich, one of the founders of the modern right-wing political movement, told a gathering of religious conservatives in 1980, “I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people, they never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”
IFA’s report cites right-wing sources like Project Veritas, Judicial Watch, and the Heritage Foundation to warn that election fraud is a large and growing problem. “Election tampering is still a problem and may be more widespread, more brazen, and more creative,” says the report, which claims that “duplicate voting” and “illegal voting” are “easy to do in many cases.”
IFA’s guide also promotes its Vote Your Values project, which encourages people to “stand for biblical values at the polls” and encourages churches to mobilize their members to vote. It also partners with My Faith Votes, which describes itself as a “movement of Christians who refuse to sit on the sidelines” and whose goal is to “see an America where God is honored in the public square and biblical truth is advanced in our culture.” Former Gov. Mike Huckabee is the group’s “honorary chairman.” According to the My Faith Votes:
So while secular progressives have actively sought to implement a counterfeit worldview at every level of government, Christians have remained quietly inside the walls of the church. As a result of apathy at the voting booth and in public life, we’ve suffered devastating moral decay, declining religious freedom, immoral national debt, and the erosion of traditional family values.
Imagine a staggering 90-million Christians in America being activated to PRAY, THINK, and ACT on their faith. And when informed Christians vote, they bring the influence of their convictions and beliefs to the public square.
Intercessors for America, which zealously defends Trump and mobilizes its thousands of prayer warriors into prayer and action on behalf of him and other conservative candidates, describes True the Vote as one of its organizational partners. IFA also promotes ivoterguide.com, a religious-right effort that evaluates candidates and produces voting guides, with a stated goal of turning out 2.2 million voters in 2020.