Opinion: Far-right sheriffs planning to seize voting machines in the next election

Jul 25, 2022

To the editor:

A couple of years ago Massachusetts state representatives Antonio Cabral (D-New Bedford) and William Straus (D-Mattapoisett) sponsored H.5083, An Act Relative to Polling Place Security and Integrity. The bill limits sheriffs and deputies from policing polling places unless both local police and the secretary of public safety request assistance. The bill went nowhere.

Massachusetts law already authorizes police to preserve order at polling places, but the bill was filed only after Donald Trump began laying the groundwork in August 2020 for "Big Lie" accusations of voter fraud — three months before the election — boasting to FOX's Sean Hannity that "we're going to have sheriffs, and we're going to have law enforcement" at polling stations sniffing out voter fraud. Trump's demand for sheriffs to oversee the 2020 election was clearly intended to recycle time-tested racist and authoritarian voter intimidation and suppression tactics.

No sooner had H.5083 been filed when Bristol County's scofflaw sheriff — and then-state Trump campaign director — Thomas Hodgson promised to defy the law if enacted. "No legislator is going to tell me when I can and cannot respond to someone who needs protection," Hodgson told the Boston Herald.

Though still smarting from the loss of his 287(g) ICE program, Hodgson hasn't dropped his anti-immigration rhetoric. But now he’s focused on enabling GOP voter suppression and ballot box tampering.

Hodgson's new project is Protect America Now. On the surface, PAN's leadership looks like another motley Hodgson crew of faux-patriotic Constitutional sheriffs. PAN members include an additional 69 far-right sheriffs, some with Oathkeeper affiliation.

But the brains behind PAN is Nathan Sproul, a GOP operative and acolyte of Karl Rove, long involved with numerous voter suppression efforts. A while ago I investigated Sproul and Kory Langhofer, a Trump Stop the Steal lawyer also involved with PAN, both of whom share the same office address.

The Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights (IREHR) has connected Hodgson's Protect America Now, the Constitutional Sheriffs Association (CSPOA), and TrueTheVote in resurrecting Trump's plan to have sheriffs intervene in the next election.

But by “intervention” now we’re talking about sheriffs seizing voting machines.

In June, PAN spokesman, Pinal County (AZ) Sheriff Mark Lamb, announced the creation of an "election integrity" project that will funnel reports (no doubt as ridiculous as those from Rudy Guiliani and Sydney Powell) to sheriffs for "quick evaluation of incoming information." And last week at the FreedomFest 2022 conference in Las Vegas CSPOA founder Richard Mack announced that sheriffs would actually seize voting machines.

Massachusetts voters have reason to fear that Sheriff Thomas Hodgson, ever the Trump sycophant, would put his deputies at Trump’s disposal as enthusiastically as he tried to use his inmates to build Trump's wall.

Hodgson did not appear on the speakers list of the FreedomFest 2022 conference but there is a gap in his social media posts between July 13-16. I have called, emailed, and texted Jon Darling, Hodgson's media representative, to confirm if Hodgson attended FreedomFest. So far, nothing.

In any case, if we want to prevent the theft of voting machines (and elections), it's time to dust off Cabral and Straus's bill keeping our increasingly partisan and authoritarian sheriffs out of polling places.

And then we need to send Hodgson packing in November.

David Ehrens,