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Major voting rights victory: Federal court rejects extremists’ attempt to defeat voter intimidation lawsuit

Voter intimidation lawsuit filed against leaders of US Election Integrity Plan to go to trial. 


Press Release / Last Updated:

DENVER – A federal judge in Colorado has rejected efforts by individuals involved with the United States Election Integrity Plan (USEIP), an extremist organization with ties to QAnon and the January 6 insurrection, to defeat a lawsuit seeking to stop their illegal voter intimidation campaign in Colorado.

On January 23, 2023, the court dismissed the defendants’ defamation and abuse of process counterclaims against the voting rights organizations that filed the lawsuit. Then on January 31, the court denied the defendants’ motion for judgment on the pleadings and (with one exception) motion for summary judgment. (The defendants only prevailed on one point: that, while the claims may proceed against the individual defendants, as an unincorporated association USEIP itself is not amenable to suit.) 

With the counterclaims dismissed and the court agreeing that the core voter intimidation claims may proceed, the case may now proceed to trial. 

The lawsuit filed by the League of Women Voters of Colorado, Mi Familia Vota, and Colorado-Montana-Wyoming State Area Conference of the NAACP, alleges that USEIP and three of its key organizers (Shawn Smith, Ashley Epp, and Holly Kasun) are violating the Voting Rights Act and the Ku Klux Klan Act through their campaign of visiting voters’ homes and intimidating voters on their own doorsteps for having voted in the 2020 election. 

"This is nothing short of textbook voter intimidation intended to harass voters of color and prevent them from participating in the elections process," said Beth Hendrix, Executive Director for the League of Women Voters of Colorado. "All voters should have the freedom to exercise their right to vote, free from fear and intimidation, and make our voices heard in our democracy."

USEIP’s “County & Local Organizing Playbook” (the “Playbook”), which sets forth USEIP’s principles and goals, makes clear that USEIP’s tactics include engaging in violent and intimidating behavior, and threatening and intimidating voters purportedly in order to support debunked claims of election fraud. The Colorado-based organization expanded its operations to Arizona, Georgia, and New Hampshire ahead of the 2022 election.

“Defendants’ objectives are clear. By planning to, threatening to, and actually deploying armed agents to knock on doors throughout the state of Colorado, USEIP is engaged in voter intimidation,” the plaintiffs argue. “USEIP’s public-facing actions are a clear signal to Colorado voters—especially voters of color—that to vote in an upcoming election means facing interrogation by potentially armed and threatening USEIP agents at their doorstep thereafter.”

USEIP’s intimidation efforts particularly impact communities of color, which have historically faced institutionalized barriers, violent threats, and intimidation for exercising their right to vote. Vigilante attacks, as well as police and immigration raids, compound the intimidation posed by USEIP to Black and Latino voters. Canvassers often target high-density housing areas and communities experiencing growth among minority voters.

The voting rights organizations bringing this lawsuit are asking the federal court for relief, declaring that USEIP’s voter intimidation campaign is unlawful under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, and ordering USEIP’s leaders to cease and desist their intimidation campaign. Plaintiffs are represented by Free Speech for People and Lathrop GPM LLP.

Read the court’s January 31 decision.

Read more about the case.


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