RNC canvassing efforts marred by fraudulent entries, lack of staffer background checks: report

Voter contact efforts are filled with issues that include "fraudulent and untrustworthy data entries" as well as "allegations of lax hiring practices and a lack of accountability."

Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

A new report from NBC News has outlined the holes in the Republican party’s voter turnout operations, looking specifically at door-knocker operations across the country, which sources said were prone to fraudulent activities.

Looking at internal data and speaking with nearly two dozen people who have worked in GOP-aligned field operations, NBC News reported that voter contact efforts that have been at the center of conservative political operations for years are filled with issues that include "fraudulent and untrustworthy data entries" as well as "allegations of lax hiring practices and a lack of accountability."

In Georgia, a spike in paper canvassing was seen in the lead-up to the 2022 election. Smartphone apps are now more commonly used, as these apps have geotracking capabilities for fraud prevention.

Two field staffers that worked for Georgia Victory, an operation overseen by the RNC and state Republican Party, said that as November neared, an alarmingly high number of paper entries were seen.

This number grew from zero in the early months to more than 1 million by late October, internal data viewed by NBC showed. A national GOP operative said that paper donor contacts had accounted for just over 860,000 entries during the last cycle.

Nine of the 12 regions that Georgia was divided into by Georgia Victory experienced a jump in paper entries to having anywhere between 25 to 92 percent of total weekly app submissions.

“There’s only two ways to actually verify doors,” one of the Georgia Victory staffers said. “When you use the app, it has a geolocation and a timestamp attached to a user profile. The way to make them unverifiable is you get rid of the geolocation or you get rid of the user profile. And there’s no way to actually trace anything back to anybody whatsoever.”

Multiple Republicans familiar with canvassing said that there is no good explanation for using that many paper entries. The national GOP operative said that a reasonable number is between 10 to 15 percent.

One national GOP operative, who has overseen door-knocking campaigns, estimated that "when it comes down to the actual cheating," roughly "10 to 20% of the staff ends up getting fired." The outlet noted that when cheating is caught, work must be redone and a new worker must be hired, many times as the deadline approaches quickly.

RNC spokesperson Keith Schipper said in a statement: “Because of the RNC’s data-driven ground game, Republicans won 8 out of 9 statewide races in Georgia, and we will always defend our world class volunteers against anonymous and baseless attacks.”

“The vast majority of volunteers in our program use our walk applications over paper to knock doors and we have controls in place to ensure accountability,” he added.

One of the staffers told the outlet that the increase in paper entries in Georgia coincided with the increase in door-knocking goals from the RNC. Some of the totals were “physically impossible” to pull off. 

The Republican National Committee told NBC News that multiple staffers were fired during the last election cycle for entering fraudulent data, and outlined the steps it takes to ensure the entries from door-knocking are legitimate, including using geotracking and in-person oversight of those who have been flagged for submitting suspicious entries.

Two Democrat canvassing veterans and Republicans with similar experience told the outlet that the Democrat party experiences less of these challenges, often having a ready supply of eager, young volunteers to go door-to-door and having a voter base concentrated in more urban and dense areas.

In states like Nevada and Oregon, paid door-knockers posed issues in submitting questionable data, with some canvassers improperly marking off more than 200 homes they said they visited when they were actually miles away.

Staffers caught doing this were fired, and new ones had to be flown in and trained.

One national Republican operative said that canvassing problems are exacerbated during general election cycles where there is “such a high demand in the ecosystem” for door-knockers, but only a limited pool of trusted workers.

“All the good people are already sourced,” this person said. “But the demand is way higher than that. So they’re going out and just scooping up inexperienced bodies that, quite frankly, aren’t that good.”

In Field Strategies was found to not have properly vetted some of their staffers, with a canvasser in Nevada describing "an issue" in an email with In Field Strategies "not completing people’s background checks before flying them out to the location and putting them to work.”

“Several former employees were fired after their background checks returned showing that they were violent felons,” the person continued in the email. “This company put not only the other employees at risk, but they also put the voters at risk as well.”

Tommy Knepper, the president and co-founder, said in a statement to NBC News that In Field Strategies “has always and will always be committed to the highest level of professionalism in our hiring and training process.”

In regards to signature collecting, Vanguard Field Strategies, the canvassing arm of Axiom, has been sued in the state of Nevada after it failed to deliver the signatures promised to the Community Schools Initiative to collect more than the 140,000 signatures needed to get an initiative to the ballot, and that at least 70 percent of these signatures would be valid.

Only 50 percent were found to be valid, with the political action committee spending more than $2 million on the operation. Many names were listed multiple times, with some middle names being switched out for obscene words.

It was 10 years of work to try and get this process to where we got it,” Castor said. “For them to just treat this like they were just getting paid to turn in obscenities, it’s just really frustrating.”

“We trusted that Vanguard would validate the signatures, we trusted that they would look at them and sample them,” he added. Summarizing allegations in the complaint, he said: “And they were telling us that they were using their software and they were spot-checking and confirming and coming up with their own validity rate. So they defrauded us.”

Axiom’s founder, Jeff Roe, is currently leading a super PAC that aims to boost Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign.

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