Husband of Minnesota candidate heard promoting formation of 'SWAT team' to police poll workers

The comments were heard in a leaked recording of a Tea Party Patriots meeting.

November 4, 2022, 8:07 AM

Minnesota elections officials are working to coordinate law enforcement responsibilities on Election Day after the husband of a GOP nominee for the state's top election post was heard on a leaked recording calling for off-duty law enforcement officers to police poll workers at election sites -- in apparent violation of state regulations.

In an audio recording of a Tea Party Patriots meeting in Champlin, Minnesota, last month, Marty Probst, the husband of Minnesota GOP Secretary of State candidate Kim Crockett, is heard urging conservative supporters to send sheriffs and deputies to form an Election Day "SWAT team."

"If you got friends or family or whatever in sheriff deputies or sheriffs, we need them on Election Day," Probst said. "That's part of the SWAT team to get out when certain places don't follow the rules that they are supposed to."

The comments represent a growing trend across the country, in which some supporters of former President Donald Trump, driven by misinformation surrounding the results of the 2020 election, are recruiting off-duty law enforcement and ex-military personnel to serve as poll watchers.

"They won't be able to steal this election the same way they stole 2020!" tweeted Joseph Flynn, president of The America Project, one of the organizations leading the effort to recruit first responders for that purpose.

The Minnesota meeting included several high-profile attendees from the Minnesota Republican Party and the Republican National Committee. Following Probst's remarks, RNC Minnesota Election Integrity Director Lukas Severson said, "He brought up a great point there -- we are still looking for folks who would like to join us in our War Room to answer calls from the hotline."

Cassondra Knudson, the spokesperson for incumbent Secretary of State Steve Simon, told ABC News that Minnesota law does not allow law enforcement to be situated in a polling place for any purpose other than responding to a call for assistance.

PHOTO: Voters cast their ballots on Sept. 23, 2022, in Minneapolis.
Voters cast their ballots on Sept. 23, 2022, in Minneapolis.
Nicole Neri/AP, FILE

"We're working in coordination with the [Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension] to ensure law enforcement know their role on Election Day," Knudson said. "Minnesota has guidelines for who can be in be in polling places and how they can behave. This would not allow for law enforcement to be situated in a polling place for any purpose other than responding to a call for assistance."

"Recruiting people based on lies is problematic," Sean Morales-Doyle, acting director of voting rights at the nonprofit, nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice, told ABC News last month. "Skepticism is one thing, but coming to that job believing that the election was stolen and on the lookout for nonexistent conspiracies and fraud is problematic."

In addition, said Morales-Doyle, "There's a history of problems with intimidation by poll watchers in this country -- specifically a history of efforts to use off-duty law enforcement and poll watchers to accomplish racially discriminatory intimidation, so it gives me concern when you see that kind of recruitment."

The recording of the Tea Party Patriots meeting was obtained and published by the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. Other high-profile attendees included Minnesota GOP Deputy Chair Donna Bergstrom and Minnesota RNC Committeewoman Barb Sutter.

Neither Probst nor representatives for Crockett's campaign responded to ABC News' requests for comment.