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Doug Mastriano ally Toni Shuppe has a plan to ‘stop the steal of 2022.’ It’s full of misinformation.

MAGA activists and conspiracy theorists are flooding elections offices with requests. Some Pennsylvania officials say it is a deliberate attempt to jam up the system.

Toni Shuppe, a political activist and close ally of Republican gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano.
Toni Shuppe, a political activist and close ally of Republican gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano.Read moreFight4pa

A Florida man with the username “Lone Raccoon” is carpet-bombing election officials around the country with requests for voting records. Hired by MyPillow founder Mike Lindell, the man says he has been “led by God” to try to prove that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

In Michigan, Republicans were recently caught training poll workers to “secretly” break the rules so they can use their cell phones to act as “undercover agents” during midterm elections next month.

While Texas and Georgia election officials are facing attempts by GOP activists to challenge the eligibility of tens of thousands of voters, in Arizona the League of Women voters filed a lawsuit last week in an attempt to stop armed vigilantes from allegedly intimidating voters at ballot drop boxes.

And in Pennsylvania ... there is Toni Shuppe.

Shuppe, a political activist and close ally of Republican gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano, recently published the final installment of her five-part “Plan for Victory in November” that she says is designed to “stop the steal of 2022.”

By almost any metric, the plan is chock-full of bad ideas.

Shuppe, for example, is urging voters to cast their ballots “as late in the day as possible” on Election Day to deliberately “overwhelm the system.” The reason for this is based on her theory that voting machines — which she calls “cheat machines” — are connected to the internet (they are not) and being manipulated by a hacker.

“Make him think he’s got the cheat in the bag and nobody will notice,” Shuppe wrote on Substack, referring to an unnamed hacker, “then overwhelm him during the last hour with a turnout he can’t keep up with.”

Shuppe — who has stated herself or shared others’ posts claiming that Pizzagate is “absolutely real,” 9/11 was “a false flag,” and the Flight 93 crash was faked — has also encouraged supporters to record video of voters going to ballot drop boxes during the midterms. She floated the idea of approaching already-overworked elections clerks in Pennsylvania “with an offer they can’t refuse,” by using public records requests as a threat to force them to hand-count paper ballots.

“They’re inundated with RTK [Right to Know] requests for cast vote records and the like,” Shuppe wrote. “We tell them that it’s only going to get worse after election day with everyone attempting to verify the counts because no one trusts the machines.”

Her writings, while not unusual among election deniers, are particularly problematic, because of her sizable following and her political connections. A resident of Beaver County, Shuppe is the cofounder of Audit the Vote PA, which collected 100,000 signatures in 2021 in an attempt to force state lawmakers to investigate the 2020 presidential election. She also met with former President Donald Trump that year.

Shuppe — who did not respond to a request for comment from The Inquirer — attended the kickoff of Mastriano’s gubernatorial campaign in January 2022, calling Trump the “legitimate winner” in 2020 and claiming Democrats were planning to “steal” the election again this year.

“But we’re going to build up an army to say, ‘No, stop the freaking steal,’” she said at the time.

In March, Shuppe and her Audit the Vote cofounder filmed a video endorsing Mastriano. He shared it on Facebook and Twitter.

Shuppe has also triggered some speculation in political circles that Mastriano has selected her for the position of secretary of state if he is elected governor. Neither Shuppe nor Mastriano has publicly commented on that.

The secretary oversees elections in Pennsylvania, and Mastriano has said his administration could overhaul the voting process by, among other things, forcing all voters to reregister or making unspecified “corrections” to elections.

“I could decertify every [voting] machine in the state with the stroke of a pen via my secretary of state,” Mastriano said in a March radio interview. “I already have the secretary of state picked out.”

Recently, Audit the Vote has been running poll-watcher “training” sessions. Shuppe told Reuters her group is “focused on encouraging people to become poll watchers in the upcoming November midterm elections,” but she has declined to answer detailed questions.

“It’s crazy. It’s just crazy. Complete fantasy,” David Landau, a longtime political operative and former chair of the Democratic Party in Delaware County, said of Shuppe’s allegations about “deep state” election conspiracies across the commonwealth.

“It’s like her saying the Martians are here among us and they have hypnotized people with their energy beams to rig elections,” Landau said. “It undermines the trust and the results. People can say any result other than Donald Trump getting elected must be illegitimate.”

Shuppe’s election plan seems to rest on baseless conspiracy theories, demonstrably false information, and fundamental misunderstandings about how elections work in Pennsylvania.

For instance, two weeks ago, referring to a flawed analysis of voting data, she wrote that it was a “viable possibility” that someone drove in a “truckload of ballots” that were already filled out to “stuff” ballot boxes in Pennsylvania in 2020. She provided no proof. A similar analysis was debunked back in December 2020.

Shuppe also wonders whether “the media” might be collaborating with elections officials to alter election results. In a post last week, she wrote: “[How] do the results get from each county to the media, where the average person finds out who ‘wins?’” In fact, news reports on elections are based on public information, and elections officials also post the results online.

Such conspiracies are putting increased stress on election officials across the U.S. as they are forced to field requests for information from MAGA activists. They are so voluminous that officials in Pennsylvania counties say they believe the goal is to jam up the system.

Michael Pipe, chair of the Centre County Board of Commissioners, compared the tactic to a denial-of-service attack” that seeks to crash a web server by flooding it with traffic.

Elections officials in several counties said the number of records requests had increased since 2020 and risen sharply in recent months — often with similar or identical language.

“The folks doing these things are compromising the exact thing that they claim to want to run smoothly and properly,” said Crawford County Commissioner John Christopher Soff. Many of the records requests, he said, are “directly aimed at trying to occupy, unjustifiably, election offices across the Commonwealth to make it more and more difficult for them to do their jobs.”

The flood of requests comes as elections officials have seen their once-quiet jobs thrust into the spotlight. Administrators have endured a barrage of threats, abuse, and harassment in recent years, and dozens have quit in Pennsylvania. (A few Pennsylvania counties are running this election without a full-time elections director.)

Some officials say they believe that their safety has been compromised as a result of people who spread conspiracy theories about elections.

“It’s unfortunate that this rampant mis- and disinformation has actually led to threats,” Leigh Chapman, Pennsylvania’s acting secretary of state, told The Inquirer this month, following a U.S. Supreme Court decision involving mail-in ballots.

The toxic political environment has led counties to take precautions that just a few years ago would have been unheard of. Philadelphia’s new elections warehouse, where votes are counted, has magnetometers and bulletproof glass. When someone mailed Bucks County an unidentified crushed material this summer, they briefly evacuated the elections office.

On Thursday, Shuppe filed a defamation lawsuit against state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the Democratic candidate for governor, and his campaign manager. She alleges he harmed her reputation by including her in his campaign material.

“He has assassinated my character and put my entire family at risk for his own political gain,” Shuppe wrote in a Facebook post.

The Shapiro campaign did not respond Friday to a request for comment.

Staff writer Chris Brennan contributed to this article.