Wisconsin Public Radio

Law Firm Calls on U.S. Attorney to Investigate GOP Operatives For ‘Souls to the Polls’ Texts

One of the operatives texted about "wreak(ing) havoc" on the operations of the Milwaukee voting rights group

By , Wisconsin Public Radio - May 9th, 2024 11:29 am
Before the recount in Milwaukee County began Friday morning, protesters from Souls to the Polls and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) said Donald Trump should be focused on the pandemic, instead of recounting votes. Corrine Hess/WPR  

Before the 2020 recount in Milwaukee County, protesters from Souls to the Polls and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) said Donald Trump should be focused on the pandemic, instead of recounting votes. Corrine Hess/WPR

A progressive law firm is calling on the U.S. Attorney’s office to investigate two Republican operatives for potential federal civil rights violations over texts they sent before the 2020 election.

In a letter sent Wednesday to U.S. Attorney Gregory J. Haanstad for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Law Forward attorney Chris Donahoe alleged that two people who worked on former President Donald Trump’s campaign targeted a Milwaukee-based voting rights group during the 2020 election cycle.

The letter cites text messages between Andrew Iverson, who now serves as executive director of the Wisconsin Republican Party, and Carlton Huffman, an embattled former GOP operative.

The messages suggest they wanted to overwhelm the resources of Souls to the Polls, which provides transportation to voters on Election Day, with an emphasis on helping voters from underserved and Black neighborhoods.

Law Forward’s letter argues those messages suggest the men “may have violated numerous core federal civil rights laws,” including the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1957, as well as a law named for the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan, which prohibits conspiring against voters.

“Black voters had to fight for their constitutional right to vote and sufficient protection to safely exercise that right,” the letter reads. “Voters that Souls to the Polls serves, namely voters from marginalized communities and especially Black voters, still face disproportionate threats of disenfranchisement and greater obstacles to voting than other citizens.”

Those texts, first reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, show Iverson asking Huffman if they could get supporters of Trump to use Souls to the Polls’ services. The group does not ask voters about their party affiliation, although Milwaukee is a Democratic stronghold in the state.

Iverson told Huffman he was “excited” about that plan, and to “(w)reak havoc.” Huffman later suggested that Trump supporters flood the group’s phone lines with phony requests.

In a statement, Wisconsin Republican Party spokesperson Matt Fisher said Iverson’s statement was a joke, and that there’s a qualitative difference between Iverson’s and Huffman’s statements.

“From the beginning, Andrew Iverson has maintained that his ‘Wreak Havoc’ comments were a joking idea in response to Souls to Polls offering rides to all voters regardless of political affiliation,” he said. “The text messages demonstrate that the only person who expressed a desire to sabotage Souls to the Polls by jamming their phone lines is the disgraced white supremacist Carlton Huffman.”

Rev. Greg Lewis, who directs Souls to the Polls, called the text messages “callous and appalling.”

“It just shows that people who don’t care are certainly in charge of providing leadership in our government,” he said. “People shouldn’t have that position, who will not even consider the rights, the feelings, the consideration of people who have been underprivileged — people of color, disabled, elderly — all these people who have been underserved for decades here in America.”

In addition to federal protections, the letter alleges Iverson and Huffman “may have violated multiple Wisconsin state laws,” including those against harassment and intimidation.

At the time of the 2020 election, Iverson was the head of a Wisconsin campaign operation for Trump. He was named executive director of the state party last month.

Huffman — who was recently fired from a job at the North Carolina statehouse after white supremacist media appearances came to light, and who stands accused of sexual assault — now identifies as a never-Trump Republican. According to his LinkedIn profile, he worked for the Wisconsin GOP for six years.

Listen to the WPR report

Progressive firm calls on US Attorney to investigate GOP operatives for ‘Souls to the Polls’ texts was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.

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