This Pennsylvania voter has a feeling something wasn’t quite right on the 2020 ballot. So he will be watching the midterm playoffs closely


John P. Child has a strong view of the 2020 presidential election: “I think it was rigged, fair and square.”

It is not a coup d’état, he says. But he no longer trusts local officials to run elections.

So, like the growing number of Americans who support former President Donald Trump, conservative groups have taken training courses on how to watch the polls in the 2022 midterm elections. This time, he gets to see for himself.

It comes as part of a nationwide movement led by MAGA operatives who have spread false information about election fraud, most prominently former Trump adviser Steve Bannon.

In a recent episode of his “War Room” podcast, Bannon said: “Biden is illegitimate, and we’re going to prove it. … It’s never going to happen again.”

Bannon hosts many guests who are working to build an army of conservative pollsters, such as Cleta Mitchell, the attorney who tried to help sway the 2020 election. “Across the country, we’re deploying people to be poll watchers to see what’s going on,” Mitchell said.

Some of these MAGA agents tour the country. David Clements tells the crowd that voting machines are very vulnerable. He ended the presentation with a touching call that viewers do more than just consume content. “You have to get in the ring,” he said in Michigan. “You can’t deal with that on social media.”

This is having a real impact. CNN met Child, a real estate agent, outside of a training run by the Delaware County Conservatives in suburban Philadelphia. The organizers expected only a couple of people, but about a dozen showed up, and he had to look for more chairs.

Childers showed CNN the training documents, which contain many technical and procedural details about how votes are counted after the polls close, and question whether each is an avenue for fraud. They cast a cloud of suspicion on the vote without any evidence.

“My head was spinning at the end,” he said of the presentation, explaining that he attended the seminar a second time to better understand the topic.

“I’d vote, you know, every time and … push the buttons and go home,” he said. “And the seminar basically showed us what happens after your vote. And that was an eye opener.”

“The one thing I really remember is touch writer paper,” he said of what he learned about the special materials needed that weren’t ordinary copy paper.

“So if you see Hammermill coming out, you have to say, hey, stop, stop the proceedings.”

Children raised some objectionable claims of electoral fraud. When CNN showed him evidence that the claims were false, he admitted, even amicably. But he couldn’t shake the feeling that something had gone wrong. He believed that elections should be returned to paper ballots and a single voting day.

“People come to provincial council meetings and say: ‘We have to use paper ballots!’ And I say: ‘We use paper ballots. Do you understand that we use paper ballots?’ Delaware County Representative Christine Reuther told CNN. “The votes are cast in a paper ballot, and then they are scanned, and the results of that vote are tabulated on the scanner. But you’re not actually voting on the scanner, you’re casting a paper ballot, and that paper ballot is kept as a record of the voter’s vote.’

At a County Council meeting, it became clear that officials were frustrated by several citizens who used the public comment period to make false claims about the public election comment. That frustration makes sense: Delaware County has now fought 15 lawsuits against 2020 election denialists. He won them all. But the county told CNN it cost $250,000. Reuther said he was concerned about how much more time and money this move would waste with the midterms and the 2024 election.

Pennsylvania may have some of the most watched races nationally, with a U.S. Senate seat and governorship in the balance. Delaware County was once a Republican stronghold, but has become steadily more Democratic over the past decade. In the last election, the entire county council became Democratic for the first time.

“Those things are fairy tales,” Carl Belis, who has been a poll worker for several elections, told CNN about public comments that voting machines were vulnerable to fraud.

Belis wasn’t worried about working this election in Delaware County. If someone tried to interfere with the voting, the police would be called. “Nationwide? Yes, I think there will definitely be some problems. That’s why I tell people: ‘Get ready now. Don’t be stupid like on January 6’”.

The child says he wants to follow the rules. And if the Democrats win, he’ll get on with his life. “What, am I going to start a riot? No,” he said. “It must be accepted. What else are you going to do?”