Voting this year is stressful enough, without wondering if a bunch of armed ex-military types are going to be hanging around your polling place.
Until last week, that seemed like a possibility for Minnesotans, thanks to Altas Aegis, a Tennessee-based security firm run by U.S. military veterans.
A couple of weeks ago, the company posted a listing through a defense industry jobs site for “security positions in Minnesota during the November Election and beyond.” A “large contingent” of recruits was supposed to head to Minnesota to “protect election polls, local businesses, and residents from looting and destruction.”
In a subsequent interview, company founder Anthony Caudle told the Washington Post his firm was retained by “a consortium of business owners and concerned citizens” in Minnesota, though he didn’t get much more specific. That group had hired a firm in Minnesota as a contractor, and Atlas Aegis was responsible for recruiting security staff.
“They’re for protection, that’s it,” he said. “They’re there to make sure that the antifas don’t try to destroy the election sites.”
When the Post contacted state and city officials, they said they hadn’t even heard of Atlas Aegis, but did not like the sound of this plan.
It’s illegal in Minnesota for pretty much anyone other than voters and election staff to be within 100 feet of polling places… or possibly even farther, if you happen to be armed. Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said such interference was “unnecessary” and “not welcome.”
Last week, Ellison announced his office had launched an investigation into Atlas Aegis. By Friday, the company confirmed it will not provide private security at or near polling places in conjunction with the election.
As part of a settlement, the company admitted a few more details. It claimed that a Minnesota security company had sought officers to work at its clients’ private property around the election, but never indicated the work would involve security at or near polling places.
Rather, “of its own accord, without the prompting or knowledge of its industry contacts or the prime security contractor,” Atlas Aegis advised that the scope of work included security ‘to protect election polls,’” a statement from Ellison’s office says. Caudle reportedly “misunderstood” the potential scope of the work, and had “no direct information to suggest that Minnesota election officials or… law enforcement were aware” any of this was happening.
Atlas Aegis also acknowledged its statements to the Post were “incorrect.” None of its officers or employees or contractors will be present in the state in November, let alone providing security detail.
“I’m holding Atlas Aegis to account for their misstatements about recruiting security for polling places in Minnesota that potentially frightened Minnesota voters,” Ellison said in a statement. “They won’t be doing it again and will not be anywhere in Minnesota before, during, or after Election Day.”
Election Day is November 3. For more information about getting your ballot cast, visit the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website and look up your polling place.