A federal judge has declined to dismiss a lawsuit that alleges a Colorado-based group's door-to-door canvassing amounts to illegal voter intimidation and a conspiracy to prevent people from voting.
Earlier this year, three civic groups filed a federal complaint asking that a judge order the U.S. Election Integrity Plan — a group that believes there were illegal votes cast in the 2020 election — to halt its alleged harassment of voters. The Colorado Montana Wyoming State Area Conference of the NAACP, the League of Women Voters of Colorado and Mi Familia Vota claimed that USEIP's activities violate the federal Voting Rights Act and the Ku Klux Klan Act's prohibitions on voter coercion.
On April 8, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Philip A. Brimmer rejected the plaintiffs' request for a temporary restraining order, finding no allegations that USEIP was currently intimidating voters in a way that required emergency action. However, Brimmer subsequently refused to dismiss the lawsuit outright, saying the plaintiffs had credibly claimed that USEIP's actions had harmed them directly.
Specifically, all three groups alleged they had to divert resources from their core mission of educating voters to instead monitor, strategize against and combat USEIP's activities.
"Any of the plaintiff organizations in these cases theoretically could have chosen not to devote resources to countering the defendants’ conduct and, in that sense, their drained resources were volitional. But courts have considered organizations in similar positions to have been 'forced' to act," Brimmer wrote in an April 28 order.
USEIP formed after the 2020 presidential election and is not affiliated with the U.S. government. The group has alleged "maladministration" of Colorado's elections and claimed that up to 11% of voters in four counties were "affected by unexplained irregularities" in the 2020 election. USEIP arrived at its conclusions through the activity the plaintiffs claim violates federal law: going door to door to ask questions about ballots and voter registration.
The lawsuit describes sometimes-armed USEIP "agents" as doing more than surveying voters, allegedly going so far as to accuse to those voters of casting ballots fraudulently. The groups believe USEIP's activities are intimidating, in particular, to minority communities historically subject to voting restrictions.
Claims of widespread election fraud have gained virtually no traction following the 2020 election. Judges across the country, including in Colorado, threw out various lawsuits over vote-rigging. An attorney for former President Donald Trump, who continued to assert that he prevailed in the election long after losing, currently faces a professional misconduct complaint in Colorado for her work to prevent President Joe Biden from taking office.
USEIP, whose leader said three months ago that people involved in election fraud "deserve to hang," did not dispute the plaintiffs' allegations in its motion to dismiss.
The defendants to the litigation include USEIP itself and three of its leaders. They asked Brimmer to dismiss the lawsuit based on the argument that the plaintiffs had not shown that USEIP's activities required the plaintiffs to stray from their missions to counter illegal activity.
"Plaintiffs have failed to establish that the Defendants’ actions are the cause of any harm requiring a diversion of resources beyond its ordinary program costs," wrote attorney Jessica L. Hays. "Only if Defendants’ illegal acts force the organization to divert resources to counteract those acts can organizational standing be established."
Brimmer, in siding against USEIP, noted that other courts have found that organizations have standing to sue under similar circumstances. He cited a 2020 case from the Southern District of New York in which a civil rights and racial justice organization had to divert resources from its efforts to increase Black residents' response to the Census, and instead focus on robocalls that spread misinformation about mail voting in largely-Black areas. The judge in that case allowed the lawsuit to proceed.
Brimmer accepted the plaintiffs' allegations as true for the purpose of evaluating the motion to dismiss. He primarily used the NAACP for his analysis, determining that since the group had already allegedly spent resources to address the USEIP's conduct, it was reasonable to assume the NAACP would need to continue its interventions in the future.
"If defendants had not begun the alleged 'intimidation campaign,' NAACP would have continued to use its resources for its programmatic priorities," Brimmer wrote. He believed the same logic applied to the League of Women Voters and Mi Familia Vota.
Brimmer set a hearing for June 2 to hear from witnesses and decide on the plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction against USEIP.
The case is Colorado Montana Wyoming State Area Conference of the NAACP et al. v. United States Election Integrity Plan et al.