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This story about ex-soldiers 'guarding' Minnesota election sites is terrifying

Now that you mention it, a shadowy group of business owners hiring a private paramilitary force to supervise elections doesn't sound democratic.

Now that you mention it, a shadowy group of business owners hiring a private paramilitary force to supervise elections doesn't sound democratic. Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

Minnesota's reign as the kings and queens of voter turnout will not be deterred by a pandemic, if early voting and mail ballot trends so far are any indication. 

To date, more than 1.3 million of us have requested ballots to vote by mail, and more than 601,000 ballots have already been returned and accepted. Some 38,000 of those have come from Minneapolis, through Wednesday, and another 7,500-plus people have voted at one of the city's early in-person sites. (Check here for more information about voting early in-person, or by mail.)

Those voting on, or closer to, Election Day itself may be forced to walk by ex-Special Forces soldiers paid by a shadowy business consortium to do... something. "Guard" the polls from "the Antifas," according to the man hiring them. 

To just about everyone else, it sounds like the purest form of voter intimidation. 

This comes from a disturbing report just published in the Washington Post, which uncovered a recruitment effort to hire combat veterans to monitor polling sites and other locations for "about 15 to 30 days of work around the election." A group of "business owners and concerned citizens" is funding the private security service through a Tennessee-based firm called Atlas Aegis, which on its website promises "risk management services" through deployment of "elite security teams of veterans and first responders."

Atlas Aegis owner Anthony Caudle declined to be more specific about who'd retained his company, or where these ex-military personnel would be stationed in Minnesota. He was clear about their mission though. 

“They’re there for protection, that’s it," Caudle told the Post. "They’re there to make sure that the Antifas don’t try to destroy the election sites.”

The plan sounds straight ouf of President Donald Trump's suggestion during his first debate with Joe Biden, where the president (of a democratic republic, at least in theory) encouraged his supporters to "go into the polls and watch very carefully, because that's what has to happen." 

The recruitment effort clearly chilled Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon, who pointed out that poll-watching is against the law in Minnesota. No one can be within 100 feet of a polling site unless they're there to vote, and armed personnel -- including police or active-duty military -- are barred from deploying preemptively. 

If something did happen that required a response, Simon said a private security team would only be "making things more difficult," and is "not a good use of people's time or money."

Minneapolis City Clerk Casey Carl was blunt: "I am not authorizing them to be at my polling places."

Caudle says his hired goons -- sorry, guards -- will not be a visible presence, and are only there in case "something happens." A portion of the job posting says Atlas Aegis's employees would be paid $910 per day to "protect election polls, local businesses and residences from looting and destruction."

Caudle says his secretive clients "assume the same thing is going to happen at these polling places" after George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis. "When these Antifa and Black Lives Matters protests were happening, the entire country was left completely unprepared." 

He adds that Special Forces veterans are "a delicate instrument," and would "have a better understanding of how to defuse a situation," in case anyone tries to... loot a polling place?

In related news, 13 men were arrested Thursday for a plot to kidnap the governor of Michigan and start a civil war.