Private Security Firm That Said It Was Hiring Guards to Patrol Minnesota Polling Locations Admits Claim Was Inaccurate

A private security firm that said it was recruiting security guards to protect polling locations in Minnesota acknowledged that it was never actually asked to do so, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said Friday.

Ellison issued a news release on Friday assuring voters that the Tennessee-based company, Atlas Aegis, will not bring security guards to any polling places in Minnesota and said his office will investigate and prosecute any efforts to intimidate voters before and on Election Day.

Ellison said in the release that he wanted "to make it crystal clear to anyone who is even thinking about intimidating voters that I will not hesitate to enforce the laws against it to the fullest extent."

The controversy surrounding Atlas Aegis started with a Washington Post report earlier this month in which the company's co-founder, Anthony Caudle, said that the security guards would be "there for protection."

"They're there to make sure that the antifas don't try to destroy the election sites," Caudle told the paper.

Voting in Minnesota
Signage about COVID-19 procedures sits in a ballot booth at the Beltrami County Administration building on September 18, 2020 in Bemidji, Minnesota. According to Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, a private security firm inaccurately said it was hiring security guards to patrol polling places in Minnesota. Stephen Maturen/Getty

According to the Post's report, Caudle posted messages on a job listings site advertising "security positions in Minnesota during the November Election and beyond to protect election polls, local businesses and residences from looting and destruction." It was unclear exactly how many security guards Atlas Aegis was planning to hire to monitor polling places.

Caudle's statements about providing private security at polling sites came with less than four weeks remaining until Election Day. Though many state leaders are actively encouraging voters to cast their ballots by mail due to continuing threats posed by the coronavirus pandemic, many voters have continued to visit the polls in person for early voting, and some states have predicted record voter turnout for this election cycle. According to KNOW-FM, almost 1.2 million ballots have already been cast in Minnesota alone.

In response to the Post's report about Atlas Aegis, Ellison announced earlier this week that his office was investigating the company. He said that hiring private security officials to patrol polling locations would be a violation of state and federal voter intimidation laws.

Three days after announcing his investigation, Ellison said Atlas Aegis agreed it would not provide any private security in Minnesota through the end of 2020 and admitted that its advertisement of security guard positions at polling locations was not accurate.

"In making these statements, Atlas Aegis did not intend to intimidate, coerce, or threaten Minnesota voters, poll workers, or others aiding or urging Minnesota voters to vote; or to make Minnesota voters less willing to vote," the release from Ellison's office said.

Ellison added, "Atlas Aegis shall communicate to each and every listserv, job board, and individual to whom it originally sent its request for election security in Minnesota that it was wrong to suggest the scope of work included 'protection of election polls.'"

Ellison said the company could face a $50,000 fine if it violates any portions of the agreement it reached with state officials.

Newsweek reached out to Atlas Aegis for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.